The City Council briefly discussed the proposals during a workshop discussion Tuesday about the city’s vision and goals for the next two years.
Officials said this week that the incentives were aimed at producing more owner-occupied duplexes and three-unit buildings, as well as making it easier for city and school employees to live in Auburn.
He said one of the goals of the new council is to “increase opportunities for owner-occupied, multiunit buildings throughout the city,” especially in areas that already have public utilities.
Mayor Jason Levesque said using the federal money toward development incentives aligns with the allowed uses of the federal funds, but also local goals to increase housing options in Auburn amid a shortage.
Levesque said Wednesday that the idea behind it is to add an incentive to the work the city is doing to reconfigure zoning to allow for more housing types. He said in this case, the city is hoping to spur more redevelopment of in-fill properties that have historically been undeveloped due to zoning. Now, he said, someone could build a duplex in a downtown neighborhood with an empty lot, and live in one of the units while renting the other.
The first program would offer a grant of up to $10,000 per unit for the owner-occupied duplexes and three-unit buildings for “infrastructure hook up, and site preparation.” According to the proposal, the owner would be required to occupy one unit for a minimum of five years.
The second part of the program would provide an incentive for “current and future Auburn city and school employees” to relocate to the city.
According to the proposal, a new employee could apply for a grant of up to $20,000 per unit for a single-family, or owner-occupied duplex and or three-unit home construction. The employee would be required to maintain employment with the city and occupy the building for a minimum of five years.
Levesque said Wednesday that he sees it as an “incentive to get people back in Auburn,” and as a recruitment tool for people just out of college. He said there was a time when the majority of city employees lived in the community. A memo said that with more staff living within the city, “issues will be addressed quicker and neighborhood bonds will be strengthened.” It also said it could “further enhance Auburn’s reputation as an employer of choice in a tight hiring market.”
During the discussion Tuesday, City Manager Phil Crowell said the city’s goals align with its own strategic plan, but also with the state’s goals of “making housing more attainable.” The proposal calls for each incentive to use $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money. Levesque said the city has two years to spend the money that, if approved, Auburn will know within the next few months whether the programs are being utilized. The funding could always be rolled into another use, he said.
Councilors gave an informal nod of approval Tuesday, but official votes on the incentives are planned for February. Auburn received some $13 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, and has allocated a small portion of it.
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