Patrick Dempsey talks with Lewiston Mayor Kristen Cloutier and Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque prior to the start of the Dempsey Challenge cycling event in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. Credit: Daryn Slover / Sun Journal via AP

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The city of Auburn’s recent efforts to sharply boost the number of homes there led Discourse magazine to call it “the YIMBYest city in America,” a reference to the “yes in my backyard” pro-housing movement.

Why it matters: Mayor Jason Levesque, a former Republican congressional candidate and businessman who was elected narrowly in 2015, staked much of his first term on a hotly contested plan to allow development in the city’s agricultural zone.

Just after he won reelection four years later, the city council passed a pared-down version of that plan. It has approved other changes since then in service of Levesque’s housing goal, which was issued in 2020.

Essential backgroundMaine’s 10-year economic plan from 2019 called for 75,000 new workers. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought dueling pandemic trends of net migration to Maine alongside short supply of homes and sharply escalating prices.

If Auburn hits its goal, it would be able to increase its population by 25 percent. That kind of growth would equate to 800,000 new homes and 2 million more residents in New York City, Discourse notes.

Key quote: “In terms of allowing new investment in established neighborhoods, Auburn’s new zoning goes far beyond the celebrated reforms in Minneapolis and Oregon,” economist Salim Furth of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia, who has been advising Auburn, told the magazine run by the libertarian-leaning center.

What’s next: Some of Auburn’s most recent changes are facing headwinds, according to the Lewiston Sun Journal. The city council’s March moves to increase housing density in downtown areas and allow more development around Lake Auburn are the subject of repeal efforts by groups of residents. Lewiston sued the Auburn Water District this week over the latter changes, citing a desire to protect the cities’ water supply.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...