Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, center, and Auburn City Manager Phil Crowell, right, listen to Ward 3 Councilor Steve Milks give a report Monday night during a special city council meeting in the council chambers in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — City officials signed off on a plan Monday to pursue nearly $10 million in federal grant funding toward an ambitious housing development on city-owned land.

The “Winter Oaks” proposal would build 100 new residential units, including 48 single-family homes, on a 37-acre property between Vickery Road and South Main Street. The development would also include eight owner-occupied duplexes, three 12-unit apartment buildings and community amenities.

The city’s application for funding is to the Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing (PRO Housing) program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to the HUD website, the PRO Housing program supports communities “who are actively taking steps to remove barriers to affordable housing,” including zoning reform.

At least half of the units in the mixed-income development would be allocated to households that meet income criteria established within the PRO Housing program.

According to city staff, if successful, the PRO Housing grant would be used to install the infrastructure for the site — public roads, utilities, and pedestrian infrastructure. A staff memo said that while the city has owned the land for years, “current market-driven construction costs and developer capacity have made developing this existing city-owned property challenging, with multiple attempts stalling due to a lack of available funds.”

The council, which had already held a workshop discussion and first reading on the proposal, voted 6-0 Tuesday to approve the application. Prior to the vote, Councilor Rick Whiting, who is the former longtime director of the Auburn Housing Authority, said the development team behind the project “is one of the best development teams in Maine that I’ve seen.”


“These are very talented people. I can’t think of a better group to undertake something like this,” he said.

Leading the effort is Homes For All, LLC, an organization led by Auburn resident Fatima Hussein, who founded the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine. With Homes For All, Hussein also employs an advisory council of experienced housing developers, including Dana Totman, the former longtime president of Avesta Housing, and Kevin Bunker, principal of the Developers Collaborative.

The development is also planned to include a child care facility operated by the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA, an emergency warming/cooling center in partnership with the Androscoggin County Emergency Management Agency, and an adjacent trail system run by the Androscoggin Land Trust.

The city of Auburn is applying for $9.5 million in grant funding toward a mixed-income housing development on Vickery Road and South Main Street. City of Auburn

When reached Tuesday, Mayor Jason Levesque said the city’s application is due by the end of the month, and that he believes Auburn is “in a great position” to be awarded the grant. He said Auburn is already ahead of other communities because of its work to encourage housing through zoning changes and other housing initiatives.

He said the city has been working with its partners for some two years, but that the major barrier to development has been infrastructure.

During the council’s workshop earlier this month, city staff said the HUD program would give the city the ability to offer housing to both low and middle-income households. A major goal of Homes For All is to provide more pathways to homeownership.


Glen Holmes, director of business and community development, said the program would allow the Community Development office to get behind a program for “middle income residents that aren’t typically served by our office.”

Holmes said the about 70% of the single-family homes would be marketed and sold to income qualifying applicants at or below a HUD sales cap, which currently sits at about $242,000. The median home price in Maine is currently $334,000.

The total project is estimated to cost $46.1 million, with officials hoping the federal grant would take care of $9.5 million.

Holmes said last week that the development is still a plan, and that if awarded, the city would conduct a thorough development review process.

There was no public comment Tuesday, but during the first reading, one resident questioned what the benefits of the project would be. He said he moved to Maine from Massachusetts because of too much housing and population growth.

“What are the benefits for us?” he said.

City officials have said that Auburn and the state continue to deal with a housing shortage that has caused high rental and home prices, and that this program could provide much-needed affordable housing and community needs at an ideal location.

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