Affordable housing crisis is top issue for Portland District 3 City Council candidates

A data analyst and the head of an anti-racism organization are running to represent District 3 on the Portland City Council – and both say affordable housing is a top priority.

Nathaniel Ferguson, 23, is a data analyst at Onpoint Health Care and a recent graduate of Colby College who wants to make the city more affordable for young people.

Regina Phillips, 60, is chief operating officer and co-founder of Cross Cultural Community Services. She also worked for the City of Portland for 19 years as a Program Manager for Family Shelter and Refugee Services.

The two are vying for the seat currently held by Tae Chong, who is not seeking re-election after a three-year term. District 3 comprises the southwest corner of the city and includes the neighborhoods of Nason’s Corner, Stroudwater, Rosemont, Oakdale and Libbytown. City councilors do not run for partisan affiliations, but both Ferguson and Phillips have said they are Democrats.

The district is one of two council seats up for grabs this year, with the overall seat currently held by Pious Ali.

Phillips has a fundraising edge. By the end of September, she had raised $2,880 and only spent $7, while Ferguson had raised $1,350 and was left with $711.


Both candidates said affordable housing is a major issue. “There’s a lot of exciting things happening in Portland, but it’s also very expensive,” Ferguson said. “I think it’s hard for people to be able to afford to live here, especially when they’re working class or new Mainers. It can be a real challenge. So the things that are close to my heart make it possible for more people to live here.

Ferguson said the city should facilitate housing construction. “If elected, I would like to take a hard look at the land use code and see where can we revise some of these restrictions to allow more affordable mid-density housing to be built,” he said. .

Nathanael Ferguson. Photo submitted.

Phillips agreed. “We are definitely in a crisis right now and I think we need to put all our energy and focus on how families and individuals can have safe and affordable housing,” she said.

Transportation is also a big issue, Ferguson said. He would like to see more people taking the bus and streets designed to better accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.

Phillips said she prioritizes the city’s youth and racial equity. “We need to look at how we educate our young, unaccompanied minors coming into the city and how to support them…and I think we need to look at the pipeline from school to prison,” she said. “There are so many things we need to look at in relation to young people so that we can support them educationally or professionally.”


Voters will also consider major changes to the city government presented by the Commission of the Charter and five citizens’ referendums.

Regina Phillips. Photo submitted.

Question 2 would strengthen the role of the city mayor and expand the council from nine to 12 members.

Ferguson said he liked the idea of ​​an executive mayor but would likely vote against it issue 2 because of board changes.

“I don’t think there’s really any need or reason to enlarge the city council and with the increase in the number of district seats it seems to be sort of a recipe for making the council less effective,” he said. -he declares.

Phillips said she hasn’t made up her mind yet.

“There are 13 referendums and they’re pretty complicated, so right now I’m doing research…so that when I make a decision, I can make an informed decision on which way to go,” Phillips said.

She has worked under both systems — in the Westbrook school department, where the city mayor has more authority, and in Portland under the current structure.

“There were good things in both models and things in both models that needed to be changed,” Phillips said. “So I want to collect all the information I can, not just on the mayor’s question, but on the 13 questions.”

Ferguson said he was against question A, which seeks to ban corporate and non-local short-term rental operators because he said it would not bring significant changes. Instead, he supports Issue B, which seeks to further restrict short-term rentals, but he said that cannot be the only solution to the housing crisis.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not really a permanent fix or a big fix,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he also supports Question D, which would raise the city’s minimum wage and eliminate tip credit pay.


Neither candidate has previously held elected office, although Phillips serves on several state committees, including the Maine Justice for Children Task Force and the Bureau of Population Health Equity Advisory Council. She is also a member of the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group and chairs the group’s racial and ethnic disparities committee.

Working for herself, she says she has a flexible schedule that will also allow her to take on the heavy burden of counseling. “I really want to offer my experience, insight and compassion to City Council,” Phillips said. “I think I’m ready to have a voice on council and I think together we can help the city grow.”

Ferguson said he believed voters would identify with his priorities. “I hope voters will look at me and my platform and say, ‘He’s a guy I can trust to vote for city council and come up with things that align with my vision for the future. of Portland,'” Ferguson said.

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James C. Tibbs