Making Portland Affordable

Portland is facing an affordability crisis for working- and middle-class workers, families, and seniors.  Affordable and workforce housing ensures we can continue to attract new families; provide easy access to services, jobs, and employment; and allow our seniors to age in place.  As Mayor, Spencer will collaborate with the Council and City Staff to help make Portland affordable.

Building Affordable Housing for the  Working- and Middle-Class

Portland’s workforce needs housing, but many workers don’t qualify for low-income, affordable housing units. The City provides tax incentives and credit enhancement agreements for developers to build affordable, senior or low-income housing, but gaps still remain.

Priorities:

  • Launch the “Missing Middle Initiative,” which will work to identify 5 City-owned parcels along or near public transportation for public-private partnerships to create workforce housing.

  • Ensure  that every tool at the City’s disposal, such as height and density bonuses, reduced setback requirements, and reduced land costs, are harnessed to incentivize workforce housing.

Easing the Municipal Property Tax Burden

Portland’s increasing property tax burden is making it hard for some Portlanders to remain in their homes and drives up the cost of rent.  Planning and clear guidance from the Council ensures that the City makes targeted investments without forcing residents out of the City. As Mayor, Spencer will work with the City Manager and City Council to hold two annual Council planning meetings in January of each year: one to provide clear guidance on budgeting, and one focused on Council priorities.

Priorities:

  • Working with Portland’s State delegation and our partners in Augusta to find ways to ease the municipal property tax burden for all Portlanders.  

  • Ensuring Portland’s success and booming tourism industry benefits the City as a whole with a local option sales tax.  

  • Finding alternative revenue sources to provide property tax relief that will help ensure that the City retains its population and can continue to meet its obligations.

Expanding and Upgrading our Existing Housing Stock

With the right tools and guidance, homeowners and property owners can expand or upgrade Portland’s current housing stock to include or add additional units. The City already provides tax incentives, density and height bonuses, and reduced setback requirements, but streamlining and expediting the permitting process for modifications to existing structures and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) can make the process easier for residents and property owners to navigate.  In addition, the City must prioritize areas along transit corridors, where residents and workers can access public transportation and bike infrastructure. 

Priorities:

  • Launching a program to conduct outreach and education to homeowners — especially seniors — about their options to not only help the City address the housing shortage, but also supplement their income so they can afford to stay in Portland.  

  • Incentivizing homeowners in owner-occupied housing who meet certain qualifications (such as retirement age and fixed income) with a cap on property tax burden, after an initial reassessment, that lasts for the life of their ownership of the property.

  • Working with neighborhoods to identify key areas along traffic corridors to encourage upzoning, mixed-use development, walkability, and strong and vibrant communities.

Launching a Cooperative Housing Pilot Program

Cooperative housing has been a solution for many cities across the country.  Specifically, what is known as limited equity co-ops offers moderate- and low-income residents shared ownership and interest in the building the co-op is housed in.

Priorities

  • Working with the Housing Committee and the City Manager to develop housing policy that incorporates input from the public and community stakeholders.

  • Partnering and working with Portland Housing Authority and Maine Housing Authority to launch a pilot co-op housing program by developing a new property or converting an existing property.

Zoning for a 21st Century Modern City

Portland’s current Land Use Ordinance is outdated, designed for problems and needs from over a half-century ago. As a current Councilor, Spencer supported the creation of the Re-Code Committee, and as Mayor he will request that the Council maintains the Committee going forward. 

Portland also needs a Mayor who understands the complexities and impacts zoning has on the future of our City. As an attorney who works on complex real estate and land use issues, and as a City Councilor with four years of experience on the Economic Development Committee, Spencer has both the practical experience and understanding of City Hall necessary to work on these issues.

Priorities

  • Continue supporting the work of the Re-Code Committee.

  • Work with Council colleagues to provide the Re-Code Committee the tools and resources they need to succeed.

  • Ensure open communication between the Council, the Re-Code Committee (and Housing Committee), City Staff, and neighborhoods.

 

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