Maine’s millennials: don’t blame people for trying to take housing into their own hands

Although I’m a super hip and extremely cool young person who lives in Maine, I don’t live or work in Portland. I don’t plan on ever moving to the city, mainly because I like being able to see the stars at night. Also, my dog ​​hates people. We are happy here in the woods.

So I don’t feel comfortable telling people how they should vote Portland Referendum Questions. But I wanted to talk a bit about the questions themselves and the issues that led to them. I’m no political scientist, but it seems to me that they tend to get used to it more when people feel that their elected officials are not responding to the needs and wants of the community. Citizen-initiated referenda definitely have their place. They are blunt instruments, good for population-wide positive or negative questions, yes or no. Their structure can often enhance some of the effects of gerrymandering.

In an ideal world, housing policy would be developed and written by elected officials. Trying to craft a housing policy by referendum is like trying to apply eyeshadow with a broom. But we don’t live in an ideal world, do we? All the city councilors in Portland say the right things and seem like very nice people, but rents keep going up and apartments are getting harder and harder to find. Homelessness continues to increase. (Gee, maybe you think these things are related?) Things are probably pretty good if you’re already a homeowner in Portland. But if you are not? I can’t blame people for trying to take matters into their own hands. It is no coincidence that three of the five questions asked by citizens relate to housing. (And one is wages, which, you guessed it, haven’t kept up with housing prices.) Right now the cheapest single family home I could find for sale in Portland is $315,000. The cheapest condo is $295,000. My boyfriend and I are a tech ed and a secretary. There is no way we could buy a “starting house” in Portland.

I also have extremely mixed feelings about short-term rentals, a market dominated by Airbnb. In theory, of course, they’re great. I’m all for people easily renting out a room in their house, or snowbirds helping pay their two mortgages by renting out their house in Maine whenever they’re in Florida.

And they are fun for visitors. My family stayed in an Airbnb in Old Town last spring when we all went up for my sister’s graduation from UMaine. It was a beautiful old house, comfortable and well decorated, and it gave us a much more intimate environment to spend time together as a family. (Can you imagine trying to have a board game night in a hotel room?)

But my mother also started a conversation with the neighbors. And they weren’t happy with Airbnb’s situation. Strangers were constantly coming and going through their residential area, partying, making noise at all hours of the night, and not picking up their dogs. The owner of the Airbnb was not local. This Old Town property was one of the few homes she owned and operated under the Airbnbs name. She had no connection to the neighborhood and therefore no incentive to compel her guests to behave. It was purely a money-making thing. I’m sure she could also have made a profit renting it out as a regular living unit. But probably not as much profit. And that’s the root of so many of Portland’s problems – housing and such – right now, isn’t it? Everyone wants to maximize their profit.

I’m a landlord myself now (as my first winter hasn’t arrived yet, I’m definitely still in the honeymoon phase), and I also have mixed feelings that I’m going to benefit from the government subsidies that tenants do not benefit – from the mortgage interest deduction and, after one year of occupancy, from the home deductible. We don’t tend to think of these benefits as welfare or subsidies, but they are. You cannot deduct the rent from your taxes or get respite as a long-term tenant. I do not know. Maybe it’s me being a bleeding-heart liberal as usual, but I have an affordable home in a neighborhood I love, and I don’t deserve it more or less than anyone else. ‘other.

I’m not a city mouse at all, but I love Portland. I spent most of my childhood days there. I went to St. Patrick’s School on Congress Street from kindergarten through eighth grade. It is now condos. I went to Catherine McAuley High School on Stevens Avenue for high school. It is now condos. I went to St. Luke’s Cathedral on State Street for church every Sunday. These are not condos yet. The way things are going, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried.

I’m pretty sure that if things continue as they are, the only people living in Portland will be those poor enough to qualify for its subsidized housing and those rich enough to afford the luxury apartments.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a millennial from Maine. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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