Brian Gomes is typically one of the conservative voices on New Bedford’s city council. At Thursday night’s council meeting, he found himself reconsidering a policy that critics often dismiss as too far to the left.

“I never thought I would stand in this chamber and talk about rent control, because I never supported rent control,” Gomes said. “But it was almost like you had to do something. You’re hearing from the general public of what is happening to them.”

Gomes said that he recently spoke with a woman in New Bedford’s North End whose rent rose from $800 a month to $1,400 a month.

Councilor after councilor chimed in with stories of their own about the rising cost of living in New Bedford. Some blamed the commuter rail line scheduled to open later this year for attracting higher-income renters from the Boston area; others attributed the city’s biggest rent increases to anonymous investors who recently bought property in New Bedford.

“We’ve got to stop these out-of-towners. We don’t know who’s coming into town,” said Councilor-At-Large Naomi Carney. “They’re throwing the people out on the streets, or they’re raising it so much that they can’t afford their rents.”

“These are the people that I’m looking to target,” Carney said.

Nine out of ten city councilors voted on Thursday night to place a non-binding referendum about rent control on the ballot for municipal elections this November — a majority large enough to withstand a potential veto from Mayor Jon Mitchell, who declined to comment on the proposed ballot question.

The ballot question as it stands today would read as follows: “Should the City of New Bedford adopt an ordinance stabilizing rents in order to prevent displacement in the local housing rental market?”

Several councilors said it’s very likely that some version of the question ends up on November’s ballot, though the exact phrasing could be altered by New Bedford’s city solicitor, who is appointed by the mayor.

Councilor-at-large Shane Burgo said he put the resolution forward so that New Bedford’s leaders could gauge public opinion as they search for ways to control the city’s rising cost of living.

“This is a non-binding resolution,” Burgo said. “This is just for us to ask the people of New Bedford what they want to do.”

Statewide, rent control is popular among voters, according to polls conducted in Massachusetts over the past several years. The latest survey results — published this winter by Northwind Strategies, a public relations firm — found that 65% of likely voters would support a ballot question empowering municipalities to make their own choices about rent control.

If the question ends up on municipal ballots this fall, the referendum proposed in New Bedford would offer a more specific snapshot of how voters are feeling on the South Coast.

Depending on how voters respond, New Bedford’s city council would still have to deliberate over whether to draft a policy that caps annual rent increases. Implementing any form of rent control would also require approval from the state legislature. Cities across Massachusetts lost that ability in 1994, when voters eliminated rent control in Boston, Cambridge and Brookline in a close statewide referendum.

Ben Berke is the South Coast Bureau Reporter for The Public’s Radio. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BenBerke6.