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YARMOUTH — Four months after voters approved creating a Rental Dwelling Advisory Committee, the Town Council is ready to appoint members to the new board.
According to Council Chairman Robert Waeldner, the committee will advise the council on any improvements, modifications or changes to the town’s housing ordinances or policies.
Meanwhile, at the Operations Committee meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 28, councilors are scheduled to debate whether to create an additional committee that would look at broader housing issues in town.
The rental committee will consist of seven members – three landlords, three tenants and one at-large representative – and at last week’s council meeting Waeldner encouraged interested residents to apply online at www.yarmouth.me.us.
Waeldner said the council wants to appoint members to the committee by late April, and during a workshop on March 14 was one of the councilors who pushed for action on getting the panel up and running.
It was last August that people in Yarmouth first began advocating for something to be done about increasing rents and giving tenants enough advance notice of any changes in their rent.
That’s when the Tenant Housing Rights Ordinance was first drafted by Councilor April Humphrey with input from the Yarmouth Tenants’ Association.
The ordinance was finally placed on the local ballot after months of often-bitter debate; this past November, residents narrowly approved the measure in a recount vote of 2,423 to 2,398.
The ordinance not only established the Rental Dwelling Advisory Committee, but also now requires landlords to give tenants 75 days’ notice of rent increases.
At the March 14 council meeting, former Councilor David Craig commended current councilors for what he called their “renewed interest in safe, decent, affordable housing,” but he also chastised them for not yet appointing members to serve on the new rental committee.
“The council has the duty to implement the law,” Craig said and “you need to appoint the seven members (of the rental committee) with all due haste.”
He also urged the council not to merge the rental committee with the broader housing group being considered because that would have the effect of “repealing (the ordinance) before it’s even been implemented.”
“You have to be guided by the will of the voters,” Craig said, “and the town doesn’t need two housing committees.”
Councilor Pat Thompson said it was the “will of the voters to create the rental committee” and “we may be biting off more than we can chew” with the proposal for a broader effort. However, she was still willing to discuss the possibility of a second housing committee in town.
But Councilor Richard Plourde said it’s the council’s responsibility to establish the Rental Dwelling Advisory Committee now and “I don’t want to dilute our attentions. We can address these other concerns down the road.”
Town Manager Nat Tupper then suggested that the council first concentrate on putting the rental committee to work and “then engage in a new conversation about how to address the broader variety of issues. We need to at least get started with (the rental group).”