On Rent Control and a Green New Deal, Portland, Maine Voters Go Where Others Don't Dare

Rent control was dealt another high-profile setback in California, and the Green New Deal is a hot button issue stuck in limbo in Congress. Both efforts got the go-ahead from voters in Portland, Maine in November.

December 1, 2020, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Free Street

Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock

Jared Brey provides insight into the outcomes of a particularly significant election day in Portland, Maine, where voters approved rent control and a local version of a local Green New Deal (see also Planetizen's complete coverage of local and state election results from the 2020 election).

On rent control, Portland voters achieved a major reversal of a vote on rent control just three years ago, when voters rejected a similar ballot measure by two-thirds of the vote.

Evidently, something has changed. In fact, says Jack O’Brien, who organized the 2017 Fair Rent Portland referendum and helped create the successful effort this year, several things have changed. For one thing, turnout was much higher this year. For another, in the intervening years, jurisdictions like Oregon and New York expanded rent control and rent stabilization. The Black Lives Matter Maine movement put affordable-housing at the center of its agenda. And voters saw that the arguments landlords made against rent control in 2017 — that affordable housing was in the works, and rent control would complicate it — didn’t hold water, O’Brien says.

As for the city's Green New Deal, Brey credits Portland as the first such law to be approved directly by voters.

It would require any project receiving more than $50,000 in public subsidy to include solar or green roofs and to match other energy-efficiency standards, and it would require developers of those projects to meet certain pay standards and employ apprentices on each job. It also increases inclusionary housing standards, so that 25% of units in new projects will be affordable to people earning up to 80% of Area Median Income, which in Portland is just over $100,000 a year for a family of four.

The article includes a lot more insight on the political coalition, and its opponents, that produced these progressive victories in Portland.

Monday, November 30, 2020 in Next City

Twin Cities

Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022 - Reason

Single-Family Housing Construction

New White House Housing Initiative Includes Zoning Reform Incentives

The Biden administration this morning released a new program of actions intended to spur housing construction around the United States.

May 16, 2022 - The White House

San Francisco Houses

‘Mega-Landlords’ Threaten Housing Stability for Renters

As institutional investors buy up a larger share of single-family homes, the families renting them are increasingly vulnerable to rent increases and eviction.

May 15, 2022 - The Hill

Puente Hills Landfill as seen from the air

More Funds to Transform the Puente Hills Landfill into a Regional Park

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors just approved an additional $28 million to support the development of the Puente Hills Regional Park at the landfill site.

May 23 - Supervisor Hilda Solis

Denver, Colorado

Denver Freeway Widening Plans on Hold

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s plan to widen the Interstate 25 freeway through Denver is one of a few plans to widen urban freeways under consideration in the United States.

May 23 - The Colorado Sun

Fringe Development

Public Perceptions of Sprawl and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Urban density has a bad reputation.

May 23 - Greater Greater Washington

HUD’s 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Expanding HUD’s Eviction Protection Grant Program

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.