Portland City Council approves landlord registration fees

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PORTLAND — Landlords will be paying $15-$35 per unit annually beginning Jan. 1, 2016, after city councilors on Monday approved a registration fee schedule.

The City Council also approved the sale of the former Adams School parking lot at 65 Munjoy St. for redevelopment as affordable housing, and 3 percent salary increases for Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta and City Clerk Katherine Jones.

Councilors also postponed accepting the India Street Sustainable Neighborhood Plan and designating the Levey Block at 78 Middle St. as historic until Oct. 19, when they will vote on establishing a historic protection zone in the area.

The 7-1 vote on registration fees, with Councilor Jill Duson opposed and Councilor Nick Mavodones Jr. absent, amends the basic $35 fee enacted when councilors established the new Housing Safety Office in July.

Duson opposed the discounts because she worried how it would affect finances for the new inspection program.

“I support a robust housing inspection program, and the fees assessed should have a clear connection to administering the program,” she said.

The initial $35 fee was established to raise around $416,500 in revenue for the Housing Safety Office, to be headed by recent appointee Art Howe. Per-unit discounts now include $10 for buildings with full sprinkler systems, $7.50 for a centrally monitored alarm system, and $2.50 for prohibiting smoking.

The fees will also include units owned and managed by agencies such as Avesta Housing and the Portland Housing Authority, although how the fees apply to PHA remained unclear.

On Monday, PHA Director Mark Adelson said he expected the fees to apply to all the units owned by PHA and its affiliate corporations.

Acting Chief of Staff Julie Sullivan said she understood PHA would be subject to fees on units where it supplied Section 8 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development vouchers to tenants. The nonprofit agencies will receive discounts based on the level of inspections conducted by HUD annually.

Adelson said PHA owns 996 units directly and 178 more through affiliate corporations.

Councilor Ed Suslovic, whose Public Safety, Health & Human Services Committee recommended passing the fees by a 3-1 vote last month, called the fee schedule “the last piece in front of us” before setting up inspections and a database on the more than 17,000 rental units in the city.

How the fees will govern single-family homes where owners may rent a bedroom remained unclear, and Sullivan said the city still needs to determine if short-term rentals would be considered a higher risk than long-term rentals.

Munjoy Street project

Plans to build an eight-unit affordable housing project advanced when councilors approved the 65 Munjoy St. property transfer first to the Portland Development Corp. and ultimately to Adam’s Apple, the development firm headed by Ethan Boxer-Macomber. 

Plans call for two three-bedroom units, two two-bedroom units, and four one-bedroom units, with prices ranging from $225,000 to $300,000.

The first transfer, to PDC, allows the agency to receive a $200,000 grant from the Greater Portland Council of Governments to clean up contaminated soil on the property. The grant would not be available to the developers.

Once remediated, the land will be transferred to the developers. Both the PDC and Adam’s Apple will pay $1 for the property. The city will also contribute $40,000 from its housing trust fund to help with remediation costs and $135,000 to offset construction costs.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.