SOUTH PORTLAND — Landlords of the apartment complex who lobbied City Council to consider an eviction moratorium and rent freeze have proposed a rent cap at Redbank Village Apartments instead of “those harmful policies.”

Redbank Village management sent a letter to City Manager Scott Morelli on Tuesday, just ahead of council holding an executive session with the city attorney to discuss the legal implications of the eviction moratorium and rent freeze that are listed on the agenda for Tuesday evening’s board meeting.

“Rather than institute these harmful policies, we propose instituting a self-imposed cap on renewal increases to a maximum of 10% of the average rents in place for the property,” the management company wrote on behalf of the group of owners.

“We will impose this cap immediately,” the letter said. “We hope this proposal addresses community concerns and we look forward to continuing to be a positive member of the South Portland community.”

The letter said the cap would follow “significant additional rebates” enacted last week for residents receiving housing assistance following our discussions with the South Portland Housing Authority.

Deputy City Manager Josh Reny said city officials won’t comment on the letter until Tuesday night’s council meeting.

City Council is expected to vote Tuesday night on an emergency proposal for a six-month moratorium on evictions and a rent freeze following actions by the new owners of Redbank Village Apartments.

In recent weeks, JRK Property Holdings of Los Angeles has raised rents to as much as $598 per month and decided to evict tenants from the 500-unit complex. Some tenants receive rent allowances through the housing authority and other agencies.

Councilors and other residents have called for urgent action to prevent tenants from becoming homeless in a boiling housing market and to prevent other landlords from imposing similar increases.

The moratorium would help ensure tenants do not become homeless while city officials work on a rent stabilization order that is scheduled for a council workshop on June 14, City Manager Scott Morelli said.

The moratorium would be retroactive to May 31 and run until the end of November. It requires a unanimous vote of six councilors to be signed into law as an emergency measure on Tuesday evening. Otherwise, it would require a second vote at a future meeting and take effect 20 days later.

The freeze would not apply to certain rental situations, including landlords who own fewer than 11 units, tenants at will, non-profit residential aged care facilities and retirement communities, school dormitories , owners who rent out part of their property and short-term rentals.

The letter from the Redbank landlords said they believe the proposed eviction moratorium and rent freeze “would hurt us and many other apartment landlords in South Portland.”

They wrote that the current economic environment of rising inflation and rising operating costs “has had a more profound effect on Redbank Village than any other property in our portfolio. … We have seen our labor costs- On-site labor has increased more than 50% since the takeover and the price of core projects, such as installing much-needed sheds on the property, has increased nearly 60%.

“These increased operating costs make rent increases necessary for the survival of the business,” they wrote. “Nevertheless, we are sensitive to the unique circumstances of our South Portland residents and, as outlined in our discussions with your office and the housing authority, we are committed to finding a solution that adequately addresses those circumstances.”

This fall, the owners “plan to embark on a $6 million capital project to repair and modernize the property,” including a new clubhouse and fitness center, as well as amenities upgrades landscaping, roof, deck and air conditioning repairs, and other improvements.

“We know these changes will benefit the property and the community as a whole and we look forward to seeing these benefits materialize,” they wrote.

This story will be updated.


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