Portland is in a livability crisis. The working class that powers our city is faced with unreliable, stagnant wages while our rents skyrocket.Maine DSA is fighting to make sure that our city is affordable for those of us in the working class that make up the culture, labor, and passion that makes Portland what it is. Faced with a city hall that is unwilling or unable to make the changes we need, we're putting forward
four referenda that seek to make Portland livable.
Livable not only for business owners, not only for landlords, developers, and seasonal residents, not only for the 1%, not only for tourists.

Portland must be livable for Portland’s workers, Portland’s tenants, Portland’s families and Portland’s most vulnerable— the entire working class that calls Portland home.

The Initiatives

Question B: An Act to Reduce the Number of Short Term Rentals (STRs) in Portland

  • Returns at least 350 units back to the long-term rental market

  • Restricts all Portland STRs to only those that are owner-occupied, tenant-occupied, or located in two-unit buildings occupied by the owner.

  • Increases the annual fee for owner-occupied STRs to $250 and non-owner occupied units to $750, and simplifies the fee structure.

  • Requires the city clerk to notify all residents within 500 feet of a registered STR.

  • Increases penalties for and strengthens enforcement of violations.

  • Requires the logging of complaints against STRs.

  • Allows the city to revoke STR registrations.

Question C: An Act to Protect Tenants in Portland

  • Ensures that tenants receive 90-day notice for lease termination and/or rent increases.

  • Discourages no-cause evictions by limiting the 5% rent increase to voluntary turnovers.

  • Reduces costs to tenants by restricting deposits to one-month rent, prohibiting application fees, and further limiting the amount of standard annual rent increases that landlords are allowed to impose to 70% of CPI.

  • Strengthens protections for tenants who exercise their rights under the ordinance.

  • Provides greater clarity and authority to the rent board to ensure landlords receive a fair return on investment and that tenant complaints receive a fair hearing.

  • Sets a $25,000 fee for condominium conversions.

  • Various technical changes and corrections to allow the ordinance to better effectuate its originally intended purpose.

Question D: An Act to Eliminate the Sub-Minimum Wage, Increase the Minimum Wage and Strengthen Protections for Workers

  • Increases the minimum wage in Portland to $18 an hour over three years and eliminates the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers over the same three years, at which point tipped workers will then earn $18 an hour plus tips.

  • Workers currently not receiving the minimum wage-- including taxi drivers and other ride-hailing services, personal shoppers, delivery workers, and those doing work for a unit of government-- will also receive $18 an hour.

  • Creates a Department of Fair Labor Practices to ensure wage and worker safety laws are enforced


Question B: Short Term Rental Restrictions

How does this address housing needs? How many units will it put on the market?

Question B will restore 340 units onto the market in January of 2023.Currently there are 510 non-owner occupied STRs in Portland that could be long term rentals for Portlanders. Question B will limit this number to 1% of the rental housing market which currently stands at 17,000 registered units. That means the maximum number of units allowed if Question B passes will be 170.Thats: 510-170= 340 new long term rental units.

There are two STR initiatives on the ballot. What’s the deal with the other one and what happens if both pass?

That’s correct. Our initiative is Question B. The other one is Question A and it was written by Airbnb owners to preserve and protect their windfall profits. If their initiative passes, we will get no additional housing. All it does is claim to ban future corporations from owning Airbnb’s and ban absentee landlords. But ours actually does both AND it creates 340 units of housing!If both pass, the one with the most votes wins. Therefore, we are urging people to vote No on A and Yes on B.

If I live in my place 6 months out of the year, can I AirBnB it when I’m not there?

Yes, as long as your home or apartment is your primary residence, you can rent it out as a short term rental once you register with the city.

Why do we need to raise the fees for STRs?

Question B raises and simplifies the fee structure for Short Term Rentals. All owner-occupied STRs will be charged $250 (up from $100) and non-owner occupied will be charged $750 (up from $200).We raised these fees because the department overseeing enforcement needs additional resources to crack down on illegal operators. Money raised in excess will go into the Housing Trust to help Portland build more affordable housing. Airbnb operators make on average almost $5,000 a month, and we think they should pay their fair share to operate in a city in a housing crisis.

Why are neighbors notified of an STR within 500 feet? Can they stop it?

Short Term Rentals hollow out our community and displace our neighbors from their homes in the name of profit. There are reasonable and legitimate quality of life concerns with having an AirBnB in a dense neighborhood. While neighbors can’t stop a legally registered STR, they deserve to know when one is nearby.This transparency will make it much easier for neighbors to know if there is an illegal STR close to their residence, which they can then report to the city.

How does this impact Peaks Island STRs?

Question B eliminates the current carve-out for Peaks Island, so that all STRs are treated equally in Portland, potentially freeing up 110 units of island housing for-long term residents.

Question C: Tenant Protections

How does this address housing needs? How many units will it put on the market?

The human cost of “gentrification” is displacement, which has an outsized effect on low-income and BIPOC communities. We can reduce the harsh effects of displacement with increased eviction protections, including requiring landlords to provide longer eviction notices or pay tenants 1-2 months rent to move out in a shorter amount of time.Lowering rent hikes and eliminating upfront costs and application fees help housing insecure people get into an apartment faster, easing what local tenants say is one of the biggest financial barriers to obtaining safe and affordable rental housing.

Landlords say rent control “doesn’t work,” is this true?

The literature and research is clear that rent stabilization works for its intended purpose: to keep people housed, units affordable, communities intact, and produce better economic outcomes for people living in stabilized apartments.

How does this strengthen tenant unions?

Despite being established in response to the deadly Noyes Street fire in 2014, the City of Portland Housing Safety Office (HSO) has demonstrated that it will not proactively enforce certain rent regulations or fine landlords for widespread illegal rent increases.Currently, there are no protections for tenants who have organized to protect themselves from bad-actor landlords. It is difficult for a large number of tenants in the same building, or with the same landlord, to seek recourse from HSO or the Rent Board. An Act to Protect Tenants empowers neighbors to communicate and organize.

If we already have rent control, how will this measure “limit rent hikes?”

Question C will lower the amount landlords can raise rent in a given year, providing more predictability and stability for renters when inflation is high. Starting in 2023, most landlords in Portland can only raise rents by 70% of changes in the cost of living, instead of 100%, as defined by the change in the Boston-Metro Consumer Price Index.This is 30% reduction in how much landlords can raise rent in a year, putting more wealth into the hands of the tenant-working class who make our city succeed.

Will this hurt to the quality of our existing housing stock?

The law still allows landlords to go to the Rent Board to ensure they are receiving a fair return on investment, balancing concerns that rent stabilization won’t allow landlords to keep up with maintenance and improvements, or will force them to sell the property.

I’m concerned that a dangerous tenant who gets to stay for 90 days poses a threat to other tenants in the building

The 90-day notice provision only applies to “no cause evictions.” This means that under state law, an individual can still be given a 7-day notice to quit (eviction notice) for violating Maine Law.

How does the new 90-day eviction notice work?

In Maine, landlords can currently evict someone for “no-cause” and are only required to give 30-day notice to tenants. People can be uprooted from their homes through no fault of their own, despite eviction being a leading cause of homelessness.

Question D: Minimum Wage

When will this go into effect? Will it raise wages right away?

The current minimum wage in Portland is $13 an hour. Question D will give Portland’s lowest paid workers a $2 raise on January 1, 2023, to $15/hr. The minimum wage will go to $16.50 at the start of 2024 and $18 in 2025.Servers and other tipped workers are currently paid a sub-minimum wage of only $6.50/hr hour by their employers. Their pay will go up to $10/hr plus tips in 2023. They will earn $14/hour plus tips in 2024 and receive the full $18/hour plus tips in 2025.Every year after that, the minimum wage for all workers will increase by the same amount as the cost of living, which is determined by the change in the Boston-Metro Consumer Price Index.

Why do you want to get rid of the sub-minimum wage?

The sub-minimum wage has a racist and sexist legacy from Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era. This legacy continues today with women, especially black women and women of color, making significantly less in tips than their white male coworkers. Around the country, where the sub-minimum tipped wage has been abolished, income inequality is reduced, and workers make the same, if not more than in places with a sub-minimum wage.Eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers will raise the standard of living of some of our lowest income workers and make it possible for more of them to afford to live in Portland.

Will servers and other (currently) tipped workers make less?

No. Question D raises the base wage for tipped workers, meaning that any tips workers make will be added on top of their full wage. In the seven states that have already eliminated their sub-minimum wages for tipped workers, raising a tipped workers base wage increases their take-home pay. A higher base wage also ensures better predictability and stability in their income over time.

Won’t this hurt our local small businesses?

No. In fact, when incomes and wages go up, it leads to numerous downstream economic benefits for communities and local small businesses.

We just did this! Shouldn’t we wait to see what happens?

Inflation is at its highest level in 40 years, and workers, especially those in marginalized or vulnerable communities, are feeling it the most. Businesses have seen some of their highest profits in years through the pandemic due to price increases, yet many of our lowest paid workers have seen minimal pay raises.COVID-19 has made it clear that “the market” and our bosses won’t save us. We must ensure that wages increase on pace with the cost of living and that our workers are paid equitably.

How will Question D affect independent contractors?

It will ensure that all independent contractors (including food delivery workers, Uber and Lyft drivers) will be paid the full minimum wage, so that they do not continue to be exploited by companies that only provide inconsistent income based on a racially biased algorithm. Contractors for companies like Uber deserve to have a guaranteed wage for the service they provide, rather than unreliable pay that gives just enough to keep them dependent on a corporation for survival.

Won’t this force businesses to raise prices further?

No. Minimum wage increases have a negligible impact on price increases for restaurant customers and on consumer spending. A 2017 study showed that across cities, an increase of 10 percent in the minimum wage led to only a 0.3 percent rise n the cost to consumers.

Won’t raising wages just make inflation worse?

Wage increases are an insignificant contributor to inflation, which can largely be attributed to corporate greed, as most current inflation is largely driven by rising fuel prices, as well as rent inflation. If anyone needs protection from the rising cost of living, it is the working people who make our economy run.

What is the actual cost of living in Portland for working people?

The MIT Living Wage project determined that a livable wage in 2019 for a single person household with no children in the Portland-South Portland area was $18.86 but that does not account for the housing affordability gap in Portland where someone making $18.86/hr would need to spend less than $940 per month on rent in order not be cost burdened. Where can you find an apartment in Portland for $940?

Will this increase automation and lead to a decline in full-service restaurants?

No. According to One Fair Wage, communities that have abolished the sub-minimum wage for service workers have seen higher growth in full-service restaurant establishments, full-service restaurant employee growth, and small business restaurant employment growth.Three years into a pandemic, it seems pretty clear that businesses lack the resources to replace workers with automation.

Will this change make Portland be an outlier among other cities and states around the country?

No. Many cities across America already have a minimum wage above Portland’s including five states that are above ours. Additionally, seven states have already eliminated the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, and many other municipalities have done the same. Question X will put us in line with other progressive cities around the country that are organizing for economic justice.

How will a local Department of Labor help workers in Portland?

An office dedicated to protecting Portland workers’ rights will ensure Question D is enforceable. It will also oversee compliance on Mask Mandates, Hazard Pay, Prevailing Wage, and the Apprenticeship and Safety requirements that were passed in 2020 as part of the Green New Deal.

Why does Portland need this when the State already has a Department of Labor?

The State does not have enough resources to adequately investigate and address claims of wage theft and other issues. The City of Portland lacks department personnel dedicated to enforcing our local labor laws and advocating for workers. We have one for businesses: the Department of Economic Development; and have one for developers and landlords: the Office of Planning and Permitting. But we don’t have one for the people who are the backbone of our economy. If the state cannot enforce our laws, it’s up to us.

How much will this Department of Labor cost?

The Department will need a Director, a couple of enforcement workers and adequate administrative staff to start. From there, it will depend on the number of violations they need to pursue. It will be up to the City Council to decide the exact amount needed to fund this department. It could be funded within existing resources if they choose to redirect funds from some of the Deputy City Manager positions, or if they put a small surcharge on businesses.

Will this hurt local restaurants and Portland's foodie scene?

The human cost of “gentrification” is displacement, which has an outsized effect on low-income and BIPOC communities. We can reduce the harsh effects of displacement with increased eviction protections, including requiring landlords to provide longer eviction notices or pay tenants 1-2 months rent to move out in a shorter amount of time.Lowering rent hikes and eliminating upfront costs and application fees help housing insecure people get into an apartment faster, easing what local tenants say is one of the biggest financial barriers to obtaining safe and affordable rental housing.