Welcome to Portland

No Vacancy

Rents are up.
Incomes are down.

A combination of social trends has overwhelmed Portland’s apartment market, pushing some residents out of their homes and changing the city.
How Bad is It?

How bad is it?

The Portland Press Herald talked to renters, landlords, economists and housing officials, surveyed the housing market and analyzed the city’s shifting demographics. What we found is:

People on the Front Lines

"Our money spends just as well as anyone else’s, but we just need someone to give us a chance."

Read more about Tahnee
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.

"Our phone is ringing off the hook, we are 100 percent filled and we have a waiting list."

Read more about Crandall
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.

"My neighborhood is a little noisy, but that’s not surprising. There’s a mixture of people from different cultures, which adds to it.”

Read more about Douglas
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.

“Portland has everything we could want in a much more convenient, hassle-free manner than a larger city.”

Read more about Chip and Susan
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.

“I gave up the search in frustration.”

Read more about Aziza
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.

“If an apartment comes along, we’ll take it, but if the right house comes along, we’ll jump on it. Right now, it’s really just whatever happens first.”

Read more about Lexi and Samuel
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.

“I always thought the West End was cool... I’m looking to move out of the neighborhood to elsewhere in Portland.”

Read more about Flo
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.

“Good tenants are valuable and you want to treat them accordingly.”

Read more about Michael
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.

“We also looked in Scarborough and people were telling us to look in Westbrook, but we were committed to staying in this neighborhood.”

Read more about Chris and Jessie
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.

“It’s very hard to see new people move into town from another state in search of paradise.”

Read more about Jane
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.

“Apartment rentals cannot be just about making money. Our commodity is a necessity to life.”

Read more about Adam
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.

“We knew it would be a little difficult, moving near the hill, and we didn’t know whether we would be buying something to tear it down, or what would make the most sense.”

Read more about Sandrine
Stories from those in the middle of Portland’s overheated housing market.
The People
on the Front Line
The Neighborhoods
The Neighborhoods

Each neighborhood tells a story of the rental shortage. Explore the data on rental economics, as well as demographic and lifestyle trends in each neighborhood.

See how Portland's neighborhoods stack up:

See how Munjoy Hill is a bellweather for the issues described

Check out Portland then and now with our historical photo gallery

See how the neighborhoods look from the sky with our drone footage

Tell us about your neighborhood in our fill in the blank quiz

Editor's Note

From the Editor:

"No Vacancy" is the work of a team of journalists who spent most of this year documenting Portland’s unforgiving housing market. What they found was a city in harsh transition as wealthy newcomers displace less affluent residents. These economic and cultural forces are sending tremors throughout the region.

It’s the kind of enlightening journalism you can rely on with your subscription to the Maine Sunday Telegram and the Portland Press Herald. Thank you for subscribing and supporting our team so we can continue bringing you this kind of insightful work.


Cliff Schechtman
Executive Editor

The Data

The Portland Press Herald spent months collecting, charting and analyzing data about Portland and its neighborhoods. The sources range from the U.S. Census to Portland Police Department crime logs to City Clerk dog registrations. In some cases where there was no available data, such as determining current rent prices, the newspaper did original research and built databases to help tell the story.

Here is an explanation of some of our numbers and maps.

Census tracts and neighborhoods – Census tracts generally correspond to commonly recognized neighborhood boundaries, but not in all cases. For example, India Street and East Bayside are distinct neighborhoods but they share a single census tract. The same is true for Stroudwater and Libbytown. In other cases, smaller neighborhoods are absorbed by adjacent ones. Deering Highlands is within the Rosemont census tract, for example, and Valley Street is within the West End tract.

In addition, The U.S. Census has moved tract boundaries and combined tracts over the last four decades. The newspaper standardized the tracts as much as possible to correspond with the current boundaries. In some cases, statistics for an individual neighborhood are presented as a range. This is because the neighborhood includes multiple census tracts and some figures could not accurately be combined or averaged.

Current rents – The newspaper monitored ads for two-bedroom apartments citywide in September and early October. More than 100 listings were culled from Craigslist and the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram classified ads. Average rents include heat and utilities. If an apartment listing did not include heat and utilities, $140 was added to the monthly cost, based on federal housing guidelines for utilities expenses in the Portland market. In a small number of neighborhoods, there were not enough apartment listings to generate a current average rent price. Note: These market rents tend to represent the leading edge, or higher end, of the market. Long-term tenants may pay significantly less.

Historic rents – The U.S. Census tracks gross rent, which represents median base rent plus heat and utilities, that is being paid by all renters at the time. These figures, which include public housing and subsidized apartments, tend to be lower than current market rents, but provide comparative information. The Maine State Housing Authority conducts quarterly market rate surveys for two-bedroom apartments including utilities and calculates the annual average.

Income – The U.S. Census is the source for overall median incomes for the city and individual neighborhoods. However, census data for median renter household income has a higher margin of error because it represents a smaller slice of the population, especially when examining individual neighborhoods. The Maine State Housing Authority provided median renter household income for the city from 2000 through 2014. The data are compiled for the housing authority by Claritas, a private research company that uses census and other information to develop a consistent set of data over time. There was no reliable source of renter income data by individual neighborhood. Neither the census nor the housing authority has released data about 2015 renter income. Note: All the data available show that overall median household income has risen in recent years, but that median income for the renter households – non-property owners – has declined or stagnated.

Affordability Gap – The newspaper used Maine State Housing Authority data for median renter household income citywide and for market rates of the average two-bedroom apartment from 2000 through 2014. To calculate the affordability gap, the newspaper used 30 percent of the monthly income of the median Portland renter household as the “affordable rent” standard. The difference between the market rent and the affordable rent is the affordability gap.

Decline of middle-income households – The Portland Press Herald analyzed the U.S. Census breakdown of Portland renter households according to income level for 2000 and 2014. To remove the influence of income inflation, the newspaper converted the income categories from dollars into percent of median income. The resulting categories, from very low to high, are almost identical for 2000 and 2014, although some slight variations were unavoidable given the data available. For example, the threshold between upper middle income and high income is 141 percent of median in 2000 and 148 percent of median in 2014. All other thresholds were within two percentage points.

Dog breeds and names – The Portland City Clerk’s office provided the list of dogs that were licensed as of February 2015. Feb. 1 is the annual deadline for registering dogs and avoiding the possibility of a state fine. That said, puppies have been born, dogs have died and many people don’t register their dogs. The newspaper sorted the list of registered dogs by breeds and names and used addresses of dog owners to sort them by neighborhood.

Crime data – The Portland Police Department provided incident call data from Aug. 1, 2014, to Aug. 1, 2015, for assaults, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts. The city’s data were broken down by police precincts (beats) and the Press Herald used individual addresses to sort the calls by neighborhood. Note: Locations of calls may in some cases reflect where a report came from rather than the location of the alleged crime.

Walkability and bikeability ratings – Ratings are calculated by The walkability score is determined by proximity to amenities and pedestrian friendliness. A score of 90 to 100 means daily errands do not require a car, while a score of 0 to 24 means almost all errands require a car. The bikeability score is based on such factors as bike lanes and trails, destinations, road connectivity and the number of bike commuters. A score of 90 to 100 means daily errands can be accomplished on a bike and a score of 0 to 49 means a neighborhood has minimal bicycle access.

The Drone Footage

The Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald worked with Maine HDTV, a video production company founded by former television journalists, to produce aerial videos of Portland’s core rental neighborhoods using cameras mounted on remote-controlled drones. Some of the footage is included here and more will be featured in an upcoming multimedia exploration of the neighborhoods.

These are the first Federal Aviation Administration-approved commercial drone videos shot within the Portland International Jetport regulatory area. Maine HDTV, which holds an FAA Certificate of Authorization, coordinated with the jetport tower and the Portland Police Department during each of its video shoots over the Portland peninsula.

The Journalists

Welcome to Portland: No Vacancy is the product of a team of reporters, photographers and videographers, editors, researchers, digital developers and web designers.

John Richardson was the project editor.

Yoon Byun led the photo team and Karen Beaudoin was the web editor.

Matt Fulton was the digital developer.

Leslie Bridgers was the lead reporter on a team that included Tux Turkel, Ed Murphy, Randy Billings and Kelley Bouchard. Craig Anderson, Scott Dolan and Matt Byrne also contributed articles to be published with part two of the project.

Data researchers and digital producers were Christian MilNeil and Julia McCue.

Michael Fisher was the graphic artist.

Whitney Hayward, Gabe Souza and Shawn Patrick Ouellette shot the photos. Souza shot the videos.

Aerial drone video was provided by Bill Lord and Don Johnson of Maine HDTV.

Originally published Nov. 15, 2015