Councilors in South Portland are proposing a moratorium on evictions specifically designed to fight rent hikes proposed by Redbank Village.
SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – Kevin Gilson said it took a long time to find low-income housing that was suitable for his wheelchair. When he found Redbank Village, he saw a one-story unit to keep him mobile.
Now he and his family are facing rent hikes of more than $600, as proposed by Redbank Village‘s new landlord, JRK Investment Holdings.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Gilson said. “It’s a daily concern whether you’re going to have a roof over your head in a relationship. [of] month.”
Gilson said they would not be able to afford the proposed rent of $2,400. They are currently paying around $2,000, according to Gilson.
“I hope the city does something positive,” Gilson said. “What they are doing tonight, I hope will pass.”
Gilson talks about a moratorium on evictions proposed by South Portland City Council. Verbiage in the proposal specifically targets Redbank Village.
City councilors took part in a workshop on Tuesday evening where they drew up a plan for a moratorium on evictions, which should be put to the vote on Tuesday June 7.
During this workshop, city councilors showed their support for the eviction moratorium, with stipulations regarding longer sentences, a longer duration of the moratorium, and the addition of a rent control or freeze.
If passed, the eviction moratorium would allow tenants to not be evicted for missing the portion of the rent increase in Redbank Village.
South Portland originally requested that JRK Investment Holdings and Redbank Village provide proof that they gave tenants 75 days notice of the rent increase. After missing the city’s deadline, JRK Investment Holdings showed it had provided most residents with 75 days’ notice, according to code enforcement officer Barbara Skelton.
City councilors have expressed concern over the moratorium on evictions. The current legal language of the proposed ordinance, according to legal counsel Mark Bower, would allow missed rent to accumulate while a tenant avoids eviction, only to have to pay it back in November.
Councilor Katherine Lewis said the November date to end the eviction moratorium is preparation for disaster and called for the moratorium to be extended “so we don’t have 400 families frozen on the streets”.
“If we’re going to put in a structure like this and the fines aren’t a deterrent, then we can spend all the time in the world on this and families keep getting evicted,” Lewis said during the interview. ‘workshop.
Many residents said they couldn’t afford the rent increase.
“What money? I’ve got lint in this pocket, do you want me to get rid of my shirt? Take it,” said David Morse II, a Redbank Village tenant. “If it means I have food and money to take care of myself and my daughter…it seems like the rent is going up more and more. I don’t know if people will actually step in and change it , but I hope they will.”
Maine State Rep. Chris Kessler, who represents South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, said councilors must address rent control if they impose a moratorium on evictions.
“A short-term eviction moratorium, but long-term rent stabilization,” Kessler said.
“A short-term moratorium on evictions will have no measurable impact on what happens at Redbank, they need to enact meaningful rent stabilization,” Kessler added. “It’s completely upsetting for families when they don’t know where they’re going to live.”
Councilors also expressed concern that the eviction moratorium would not reduce rent already signed into contract by many tenants in early May.
Kessler said the tenants were pressured into signing early.
“These tenants need it to be retroactive before they [sign] their new coerced leases,” Kessler said. “It really was outright coercion, and I’m willing to bet JRK has been down that road before.”