Portland landlords urged to respond to housing survey

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PORTLAND — As city staff and councilors mull responses to a public survey  on potential housing policies, a new survey on the housing rental market has been distributed.

“The survey includes six short questions targeted to Portland landlords. The survey has been forwarded to 2,600 landlords,” city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said in a Feb. 2 press release.

Like the policy survey, the landlord survey is drawn from a report prepared by the City Council Housing Committee in October 2017. In this instance, the committee, led by Councilor Jill Duson, acknowledged a dearth of data on the city rental market.

The survey intent is “to create a current situation report on housing policy, availability, and affordability,” Grondin said.

The city has hired 45 North Research at a cost of $14,250 to conduct the survey, Grondin said. There is no deadline for responses, but Grondin said the city hopes for a report from the consultant in early spring, with the results being discussed by the committee in April or May.

The city does not have a general link to respond to the survey. Grondin said the survey was sent to people on the registry of city rental properties, which is comprised of landlords who also pay the annual registration fees.

While saying the survey should take about five minutes to complete, it goes beyond the registry information by asking specifically about current and prior rents, square footage and whether apartments are rented to tenants using housing vouchers.

Brit Vitalius, president of the Southern Maine Landlord Association, welcomed the survey Tuesday.

“We are encouraging our members to fill it out,” he said. “Information is a good thing.”

The survey, which is not mandatory, also asks about the number of occupants in given units, the number of bedrooms, and whether utilities, Wi-Fi and off-street parking are included in the rent.

Landlords are also asked to categorize their buildings by age, condition and neighborhoods around them.

“(The consultant) wanted to make sure the quality of the information is very high and that they could verify where the information was coming from,” Grondin said.

Results compiled from the survey on policies to pursue as of Tuesday showed data from 97 responses. Within those, the public most supported amending inclusionary zoning rules to increase the number of units to be set aside and reduce the income levels the housing would target.

The rules now require any new development of 10 or more units to have 10 percent of the units marketed to people earning 100-120 percent of the area median income. Developers can also opt to pay $100,000 per affected unit to the city Housing Trust Fund in lieu of creating the affordable housing.

Respondents also favored having the city take the lead in creating a land trust to help obtain properties to develop below market rate housing.

The survey responses will be discussed at the Housing Committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, at City Hall.

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

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.