AUBURN — Less than a year ago, Mayor Jason Levesque used his “state of the city” address to call for dramatic increase in new housing development, with a goal of 2,000 more homes built by 2025.

During the city’s inauguration ceremony Monday, when the city’s elected officials were sworn in for the new term, Levesque said the city is nearing the halfway point.

Levesque, who began his third term Monday night after running unopposed, used his address to continue his focus on creating more housing opportunities, stripping away fees and other regulations and on newer initiatives like making older buildings more energy efficient and prioritizing pedestrian safety measures.

During the speech, he said that in the past four years, private developers have built, or are building, 178 new apartments and single-family homes. Another 176 have been approved for construction early next year and some 350 are being proposed for permitting, he said, making a total of 704.

“But we still have some work to do to ensure that anyone, regardless of their socioeconomic background, can find safe housing of varying types,” he said.

Levesque had a new housing goal to share: 100 new owner-occupied two- and three-unit buildings in Auburn, “homes where young families, retirees, and everyone in between can build wealth, reinvigorate our neighborhoods, and improve the quality of life for their families,” he said.


Edward Little High School students Gabriel Despradel, left, and Abigail Faucher welcome city officials and the audience Monday night along with well wishers to the 2021 inauguration ceremony at the Auburn Senior Community Center. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Levesque has driven much of the City Council’s emphasis on housing, a reaction to a regional and statewide housing crisis that has driven up prices. It’s also coincided with updates to the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Approved last week, the updates include recommendations to streamline zoning and increase density limits to allow for more types of housing in more areas of the city.

Last week, in a related discussion, the council said no — at least for now — to opening up strips of rural land to potential housing.

In his address, he called for continuing to work on “land reform, by reviewing and passing the zoning reforms outlined in our updated comprehensive plan. This will provide opportunities for smart and understandable growth throughout our city.”

“Together, we will take a hard look at the socioeconomic segregation that exists within Auburn and strive to be fair, diverse and inclusive in our decision-making,” he added.

He’ll have a new slate of councilors to work with over the next two years, with four new ones elected. Levesque also announced he plans to take the mayor’s seat on the School Committee for the upcoming term.

According to the City Charter, the mayor — or a city councilor appointed by the mayor — is a member of the School Committee, along with its seven elected members. In recent years, it has become commonplace for a councilor to assume the role, but Levesque said in his address that he will serve on the committee, and “work hard to find cost-saving efficiencies between the School Department and municipal government,” as well as “help bridge the communications gap between our students and their city.”


Levesque used his address to lay out plans for working with homeowners and landlords on, “optimal health, safety and energy efficiency of their homes.” He said, “The days of blighted buildings, owned by absentee landlords, are numbered. Don’t expect this city to turn a blind eye. Owners should expect swift action to remediate blighted properties.”

He said the city will continue efforts to become more sustainable and carbon neutral by 2050, with electric city vehicles, six new electric vehicle charging stations and the use of hydroelectricity to power city buildings.

Auburn School Committee Chairperson Karen Mathieu, center, addresses the audience Monday night, newly elected city councilors, left, and School Committee members, right, during the 2021 inauguration ceremony at the Auburn Senior Community Center. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Karen Mathieu, who was reelected chairwoman of the School Committee, said Monday that the district should be commended for its work over the past two years.

“Whether it was the decision to hire the most outstanding superintendent, Dr. Cornelia Brown, or decisions made in response to a global pandemic, each and every one was made through the lens of supporting the students we were elected to serve,” she said. “I am proud to have led a committee that held to its code of ethics, even in the most contentious moments.”

Mathieu said the new School Committee, “will work tirelessly to serve our community in a way that reflects the values of good citizenship.”

Levesque thanked the outgoing councilors, as well as outgoing Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer, who he said he had a close relationship with over the past two years.


Auburn’s 2021-23 elected officials

Mayor: Jason Levesque

City Council: Richard Whiting, Ward 1; Ryan Hawes, Ward 2; Stephen Milks, Ward 3; Joseph Morin, Ward 4; Leroy Walker, Ward 5; Belinda Gerry, at-large; Dana Staples, at-large.

Auburn School Committee: Clarisa Pérez-Armendáriz, Ward 1; Pamela Hart, Ward 2; Karen Mathieu, Ward 3; Brian Belknap, Ward 4; Daniel Poisson, Ward 5; Pamela Albert, at-large; Patricia Gautier, at-large.

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