Neighborhood notification for large accessory buildings in residential zones

Tags

,

Published in the Nov. 15, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Planning Commission recommends neighborhood notification for large accessory buildings in residential zones

by Amy Reinholds

If your neighbor plans to build a garage or other accessory building that is two stories or bigger, would you want to be notified and have the opportunity to give your input? The Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) voted on Nov. 12 to recommend that town code change to require a conditional use review and notify neighbors for any accessory buildings that are two stories or more in residential lots in town.

The next step is before the Lyons Board of Trustees at an upcoming meeting.

This change in town process for residential zones was prompted by concerns the PCDC heard from neighbors about applicants bringing the conditional use review forward for an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) a year after the living space above the garage was permitted and built “by right” as an accessory building (garage) under Town of Lyons code. The neighbors expressed concern about the size of the structure, which looks like an R-2 zoned property with two townhomes on the lot. However, the town code had allowed that size of garage to be added to the property.

A process for adding ADUs (small carriage houses or mother-in-law apartments) to single family home residential lots was created and modified in the Town of Lyons during the past few years, aiming to encourage more available rentals in town at lower costs because of the size, but still at market rate. The Lyons ADU ordinance (see www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units) allows small carriage houses to share utility connection fees with the main house, which saves homeowners $20,000-$40,000 in construction costs. Homeowners of ADU properties must rent for periods of 30 days or longer (for example, at least a month-to-month lease), and cannot use their properties for short-term vacation rentals. Attached ADUs within the same structure as the main house (for example, basement apartments) don’t require conditional reviews like detached ADUs (for example, carriage houses), but they do require permits.

Whenever homeowners want to build accessory buildings, such as garages, that are two stories or greater, or have services (sewer and water) connected to the additional building, this change in town code would now require that neighbors be notified and public hearings scheduled for the public to give comments. The conditional use review would be required for all large accessory units, regardless of whether the owners intend them to be dwelling units that are rented out or not. Conditional use review public hearings are held before both the PCDC and the Lyons Board of Trustees.

There were four members of the public in the audience, but no one gave comments to the PCDC during this public hearing. Commissioners discussed past comments they have heard about character of neighborhoods, increased density, and complaints they have heard about large buildings in R-1 zoned (single family home) zoned parts of town.

The PCDC commissioners also talked about how it’s not common for zoning codes in other municipalities to allow homeowners in residential zones the automatic right to build accessory buildings as tall or as large as the primary house on the lot. This change for Lyons would require a conditional use review for homeowners who want to do build the accessory buildings two stories or higher.

The commissioners voted 7-0 for the change to Lyons Town Code.

ADUs on R-1 residential lots in town are often pointed to as a solution for affordable housing, but it’s important to consider that town code does not limit what the homeowners can charge for rent. These additional dwelling units might provide some more rental options in town, but they won’t be the sole solution to replace what was lost in the 2013 flood. The rent for these ADUs, carriage houses, or whatever someone calls them, will still be whatever the market will bear. In contrast, Summit Housing Group is proposing a total of 40 rental homes in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision with rents that are affordable for people who earn 60 percent of the area median income or less. Summit is applying for Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds, available at a maximum of $100,000 per rental home, up to $4 million for the proposed total 40 residences (29 homes in duplexes and triplexes, and 11 single-family homes). This funding, as well as federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits helps subsidize the rents to be affordable.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (including the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.

In March 2015, a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. However, $4 million of federal disaster recover funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons. After that vote, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals have been pursued, but Summit’s plan to purchase of the land in Lyons Valley Park is the first step toward that building process. So far, the only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on six residential lots. To volunteer or to donate to Habitat for Humanity construction costs in Lyons, go to www.stvrainhabitat.org.

 

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact her directly at areinholds @hotmail.com

IMG_1172

Advertisements

Summit proposal expected to use the $4 million in federal funds for Lyons affordable housing

Tags

, ,

Published in the Nov. 8, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Summit proposal expected to use the $4 million in federal funds

by Amy Reinholds

Using the $4 million in federal disaster recovery funds for Lyons affordable housing by a required deadline of September 2019 is not expected to be a problem for Summit Housing Group, which proposes to build 11 single family homes and 29 homes in duplex and triplex buildings in Lyons Valley Park. Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen answered a question from a trustee at the Nov. 5 Board of Trustees meeting, by saying “After meeting with CHFA [Colorado Housing and Finance Authority] and the Department of Housing, they are confident that they can spend the $4 million within a few months of receiving it.”

Summit wants to build 10 buildings of duplexes and triplexes (a total of 29 residences) on Lyons Valley Park Tract A of Filing 8 (about 4 acres), and 11 single family homes on 11 adjacent single family home lots – all rental homes for people who earn 60 percent of the area median or less. Summit is applying for Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds, available at a maximum of $100,000 per rental home, up to $4 million for the proposed total 40 residences.

Simonsen told the trustees during her administrative report that Summit’s application for another source of funding for building the homes, the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), must be applied for by Jan. 1, 2019. She said the applications are reviewed in January, and the LIHTC is awarded in February.

She said that Summit representatives met with the fire department about the proposed road access to the new homes, and they are starting to meet with Town Planner Paul Glasgow about a schedule for the Development Plan public hearings with the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission.

The duplexes and triplexes on Tract A of Filing 8 require a Development Plan, which starts with a public hearing before the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission and later goes to a public hearing before the Lyons Board of Trustees. Nearby homeowners and all community members can submit public comment either in person or in written comments for all the public hearings.

The development process for single-family lots is like all others already platted in the subdivision and elsewhere in Lyons, requiring a standard permitting and development process with the Town of Lyons.

Summit has finalized a sales and purchase agreement with Keith Bell of Lyons Valley Park Inc for both Tract A of Filing 8, and 11 single family home lots, in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision. Also answering a question from the trustees on Nov. 5, Simonsen said “There was a clarification from Summit. They kept saying that they had ‘closed,’ but it was really that they were under contract.” Simonsen said that closing on the purchase of the land is expected by the end of this year.

Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions that are affordable to people who make 60 percent of the area median income or less. The latest homes in Colorado are Centennial Park Apartments at 1205 Pace St. in Longmont. The property management site for Summit buildings,
www.leasehighland.com, shows what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit, including the homes in Longmont. People who have questions about how a rental and application process would work in Lyons can review the information at that website.

You can read about Summit’s community meeting at the Lyons Middle and Senior High School in September, which included a preliminary concept plan for the proposed homes.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (including the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.

In March 2015, a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. However, $4 million in federal disaster recover funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons. After that vote, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals have been pursued, but Summit’s plan to purchase of the land in Lyons Valley Park is the first step in that building process. So far, the only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on six residential lots. To volunteer or to donate to Habitat for Humanity construction costs in Lyons, go to www.stvrainhabitat.org.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact her directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

IMG_3163

Update about Summit proposal for affordable housing in Lyons Valley Park

Tags

, ,

Published in the Nov. 1, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

 

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Update about Summit proposal for affordable housing in Lyons Valley Park

by Amy Reinholds

The next steps in Summit Housing Group’s proposal for affordable rental homes in Lyons Valley Park are applying for multiple types of funding for construction of the homes.

Summit is applying for Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds from the U.S. Department of Housing, available at a maximum of $100,000 per rental home, up to $4 million for the proposed total 40 residences. Total funds awarded must be spent by September 2019, and Summit president Rusty Snow has said that there would not be an issue spending those funds on land acquisition and utility connection costs by that time. 

The second type of affordable housing funding that Summit is applying for is federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), which gives investors a reduction in their federal tax liability for every dollar they invest in financing to develop affordable rental housing. The investors’ equity contribution subsidizes the development, allowing housing units to rent at below-market rates (required to be 60 percent of area median income or lower).  A deadline for a higher subsidy of LIHTC tax credits to cover 70 percent of the homes in a development (also referred to as “9 percent tax credits”) ended this June, but Summit is applying for the tax credits that cover 30 percent of the rentals in a development (also referred to as “4 percent tax credits”). Lyons Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen said it looked like that application would be submitted by the end of 2018. 

This week, both Simonsen and Snow both clarified that Summit has finalized a sales and purchase agreement with Keith Bell of Lyons Valley Park Inc for both Tract A of Filing 8, and 11 single family home lots, in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision. A report on Summit’s status at the Oct. 1 Lyons Board of Trustees meeting had caused confusion over whether the land was already purchased.

Summit Housing Group wants to build 10 buildings of duplexes and triplexes (a total of 29 residences) on Lyons Valley Park Tract A of Filing 8, and 11 single family homes on 11 adjacent single family homes lots, all rental homes for people who earn about 40-60 percent of the area median income. 

Another step is a site plan development review process for building the multifamily homes on Tract A, which is a public process and requires data such as a traffic study. The process begins with a public hearing before the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission and later goes to a public hearing before the Lyons Board of Trustees. Nearby homeowners and all community members can submit public comment either in person or in written comments for all the public hearings.

The public also learned at the October 1 meeting of the Lyons Board of Trustees that Summit is also working on a site plan review for the public improvements (road and utilities). Summit is initiating discussions with officials from the Lyons Fire Protection District about roads and public safety access.

The development process for single-family lots is like all others already platted in the subdivision and elsewhere in Lyons, requiring a permitting and development process with the Town of Lyons.

Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions that are affordable to people who make 60 percent of the area median income or less. The latest homes in Colorado are Centennial Park Apartments at 1205 Pace St. in Longmont. The property management site for Summit buildings,
www.leasehighland.com, shows what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit, including the homes in Longmont. People who have questions about how a rental and application process would work in Lyons can review the information at that website.

At a community meeting at the Lyons Middle and Senior High School on Sept. 11, Summit gave updates to the public about a preliminary concept plan for the proposed homes. Snow and Denver-area architect Elizabeth Johnson presented updates and answered questions from neighbors in Lyons Valley Park and the broader community. 

Snow gave examples of rents for people who earn 40 percent of the area median income (about $36,000 for a single person or more for a larger household size) as approximately $906 a month for a 2 bedroom rental home or $1045 a month for a 3 bedroom rental home, depending on family size. Flood-displaced residents are prioritized for these proposed homes, and Snow said he planned to work with the Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF) to reach out to possible future renters.  He also said that renters complete applications and re-certify each year (and renters are not forced to leave for modest income increases).

Snow answered a question at that community meeting about whether Summit was seeking discounted or waived utility connect fees, as were given to Habitat for Humanity  for the six homes at 112 Park Street. He said that Summit is not requesting discounted or waived utility connection fees (sometimes called “tap fees”) from the Town of Lyons for building affordable homes.

The multifamily homes Summit is proposing are actually less dense than the market-rate homes in the Lyons Valley Village co-housing multifamily development that is already in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision. The density of Lyons Valley Village was confirmed to be 11 total buildings on 2 acres, with a total of 18 homes. Of the 11 buildings, one is a community house, eight are duplexes, and two are single family homes. You can find out more information at www.lyonsvalleyvillage.info/about. In comparison, the multifamily units that Summit is proposing are 10 buildings on the 4 acres of Lyons Valley Park Tract A of Filing 8, with a total of 29 total residences. About 2.9 of those 4 acres are buildable, which means the remaining space on that Tract A will remain undeveloped. This spring, Summit determined that the Lyons Valley Park subdivision agreement allows for multifamily density on 3.82 acres of Tract A of Filing 8, allowing about 27-29 homes (whether built by Summit or any future property owner), but not as many as the 43 that Summit had originally proposed.

Also at that community meeting, Snow and Johnson said that the duplexes and triplexes would be two stories and not higher than 25 feet, and the 11 single family homes would be one story. They said they were interested in getting a copy of the Lyons Valley Park Homeowners Association (HOA) design guidelines so the buildings match the existing neighbors’ homes. Snow also said he was willing to discuss whether Summit would join the HOA.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (including the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.

In March 2015, a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. After that vote, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals have been pursued, but Summit’s plan to purchase of the land in Lyons Valley Park is the first step in that building process. So far, the only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on six residential lots. To volunteer or to donate to Habitat for Humanity construction costs in Lyons, go to www.stvrainhabitat.org.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact her directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

IMG_3163

How to donate or volunteer to build Lyons Habitat for Humanity homes

Tags

, ,

Published in the Oct 25, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

How to donate or volunteer to build Lyons Habitat for Humanity homes

by Amy Reinholds

As the holidays approach, it’s a good time to remember how anyone in our community can contribute to the six Habitat for Humanity homes being built at 112 Park Street, either by contributing funds, volunteering time, or coordinating a business or organization to do both.

Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on six residential lots the non-profit purchased in late 2016 (south of the former Valley Bank building, which remains on a separate commercial lot). Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. Mortgages are about $150,000 (depending on some custom options). Monthly mortgage payments including taxes and insurance will range from about $650 to $850 for all the homeowners in Lyons, depending on income and household size.

Applicants to purchase all six of the homes were selected by April of this year, and several friends and family members have been helping donate volunteer hours to count toward each household’s “sweat equity.” All Habitat for Humanity homeowners complete about 250 volunteer hours of per adult in each household, which includes attending financial and home-ownership classes, as well as working on construction of their own and their neighbors’ homes, or working at the Habitat ReStore in Longmont.

The preference policy gave first preference for applicants displaced as a result of the flood disaster of 2013, who maintained their primary residence in the Lyons area (80540 zip code) at the time of the flood. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference is for applicants at 60% of area median income or below (and possibly as much as 80% of the area median income was allowed for Lyons). A permanently affordable restriction means that homeowners who sell their homes in the future must sell to qualified buyers who are in that same income range.

Habitat for Humanity is hoping that several of the homeowners will be celebrating the new year in completed homes, but more volunteer labor and donations are needed.

The ways that the local community can help see the Habitat for Humanity homes to completion falls into two categories: donating and volunteering. To donate specifically to the Lyons construction, go to www.coloradogives.org/rebuildlyons. To volunteer, no specific experience is needed, and training is on the job for each the 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. volunteer shift. On the website at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction, after clicking FLOOD REBUILD-LYONS, volunteers can review all volunteer days with openings and sign up for one or more of the specific days they are available. Volunteer days at the Lyons site are usually Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

The Adopt-a-Day sponsorship is an opportunity for groups or businesses to both donate and volunteer. It costs Habitat approximately $2,500 a day to build (costs of materials, permits, and site supervision for example). The combination of volunteer service and a financial contribution of $2,500 doubles the impact of the generous groups on Habitat’s mission. The Lyons Lions Club and its youth chapter, “the Lyons Leos,” joined together in May for an Adopt-a-Day sponsorship at the Lyons construction site. There is room for more big-hearted businesses or organizations to do the same later this fall. Although Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley has some federal disaster recovery funding, there is still a large gap in the costs of building these homes that fund-raising and donations must fill.

In November 2016, three years after the flood, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots from Craig Ferguson of Planet Bluegrass and his LLC. The Lyons Board of Trustees voted in 2015 to waive water and sewer connection fees that they have control over for Habitat for Humanity. The total of about $173,500 in savings helped Habitat for Humanity meet its permitting and fees budget for the Park Street homes, keeping mortgages down to about $150,000 for homeowners.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes since the 2013 flood. In March 2015, a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rental homes and some Habitat for Humanity affordable for-sale homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. After that vote, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rental homes have been pursued, and Summit Housing Group’s planned purchase of land in Lyons Valley Park is the first step toward the building process. So far, the only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes). There are currently 26 permanently affordable rental homes in the Town of Lyons (already in town before the September 2013 flood): eight apartments at Bloomfield Place near the Stone Cup cafe, 12 apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing near the post office, and six apartments at Mountain Gate on 2nd Ave, all operated by the Boulder County Housing Authority.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact her directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

IMG_6140

 

“Eviction” author Matthew Desmond advises expanding housing vouchers

Tags

, , ,

Published in the Oct 18, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Eviction author Matthew Desmond advises expanding housing vouchers

by Amy Reinholds

“A problem as big as affordable housing problem needs a big solution,” Matthew Desmond, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, told the audience at the Lory Student Center at Colorado State University on Oct. 10. “Let’s take a solution we already have that is working like the affordable housing voucher program and just expand it to everyone below the poverty line.”

Desmond, a Princeton University professor, and also a MacArthur Fellow “genius grant” recipient, wrote the book after living in Milwaukee, both in a trailer park on the south side and in a boarding house on the north side, following eight families through the process of evictions, in court and in their search for places to live. He learned and told the stories of tenants and landlords, both black and white. His talk at CSU was sponsored by the university and several organizations. The event raised money and awareness for Neighbor to Neighbor, a non-profit in Fort Collins and Loveland that provides a wide range of services from preventing homelessness to rental assistance, housing search programs, and home buyer education.

When families have a Section 8 voucher, which subsidizes their monthly rental costs, data shows they move less often and their kids do better in school, Desmond said. The problem, he said, is that there aren’t enough for all the people who need them. There are lotteries that are only open a few time, and there are long waiting lists for publicly funded affordable housing. “The unlucky majority receive nothing.”

About his idea of expanding vouchers to everyone below the poverty level, he said there are two main questions people ask about this idea. First, would it be a disincentive to work? “There is some data that people would work less, but maybe they would spend more time with their kids,” Desmond said. “But I think the status quo is much more a risk. Think of the brainpower and creativity that we just squander.”

For people who have a high school education or less, income has stayed flat, but the cost of rent has increased, Desmond said. “Under these conditions you don’t need to make a huge mistake to find yourself out on the street.” And when you are evicted, or forced to leave, he described a long list of losses: “You lose your neighborhood. your kids lose their school. Sometimes you lose your stuff. An eviction prevents you from finding another home, including public housing. It can cause job loss.” He said data shows families move to poorer neighborhoods with more crime after an eviction. A woman he wrote about in his book was paying more than 80 percent of her income on rent after an eviction. “Evictions seem to push families deeper into disadvantage.”

The second question Desmond said people ask him about expanding the housing voucher program for all low-income families is if it would be expensive for the American taxpayers. “The bipartisan Princeton Foundation estimated it would cost an additional $22 billion,” he said. But he pointed out that currently the homeowner tax subsidies cost about $40 billion. “It’s an entitlement, too, just not for poor people.”

The reality is much more complicated than “tenants are just lazy, and landlords are just greedy,” Desmond said. “We have to listen to landlords and tenants and understand their perspectives,” Desmond said. He gave an example of the complexity of what the City of Portland found about vouchers – 60 percent of vouchers were returned because tenants could not find landlords who would accept them. “We have to understand why,” Desmond said. “Is the inspection process too onerous? Is the voucher too little in a hot market?”

“This is a bipartisan problem,” Desmond said. “Whatever issue you care about, affordable housing is somehow at the root of it,” he said, bringing up data about how well children do in school, and depression in mothers who have been evicted with their children, showing up at a higher rate two years later. Desmond said that the data also shows that “Most white families in this country own their own home. Most black and latino families in this country do not, because of the legacy of racial discrimination.” And finally housing is connected with hunger and children’s nutrition. “When families do get rental assistance, they do one consistent thing with their money,” Desmond said. “They go to the grocery store.”

“If we don’t fix the housing problem, we won’t be able to fix the other problems,” he said. “This degree of inequality and level of social suffering… This doesn’t have to be us. There’s no ethical code, no holy scripture, that can support what our country has become.”

evicted-book-desmond

Desmond and his team’s work at www.evictionlab.org include eviction data from all parts of the country that are available for download. For example, he cited that the state of Colorado averages 50 evictions per day, which is more than our neighboring states of Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska.

The housing crisis is affecting rural and suburban areas, he said, as well as expensive communities in the north and poor communities in the south. “And it’s a young person’s issue whether you want it to be or not,” he said, describing how many young people can’t afford to move out of their parents’ homes after college.

After all this, does it sound bleak? Desmond also related success stories. “There are organizations around this country doing good work,” he said, and his organization justshelter.org aims to amplify that work.

He said some cities have held votes that passed raising taxes, like Seattle, where $270 million will be spent on creating affordable housing over seven years. He also said that in Laurence Kansas, “a bunch of nuns got together and got a sales tax passed” for affordable housing.

Desmond also cited innovations in the court system for evictions. In Cleveland, the judge in eviction court asks the tenants why they didn’t pay their landlords the $500 or whatever amount is owed, and tenants often answer because they lost their job or had unforeseen medical expenses. Full-time social workers in the courtroom match up services to help the tenants, and a situation is worked out so the landlords go home with some money that day, and the eviction is avoided.

And local laws have changed. Desmond said that in Milwaukee, 80 percent of domestic violence calls resulted in evictions for the women who called police because of a “nuisance” code where police notified landlords when a property had a certain number of repeat police reports. But after Desmond and his team worked with the police department, the laws and the policy changed so that domestic violence was not counted in the nuisance reporting for addresses, and the survivors of domestic violence didn’t also face eviction.

“The issue we could all consider is how much skin in the game do we have?” Desmond said. He described a proposal in Houston that could have built a larger number of homes in a poorer neighborhood, although HUD told the city they shouldn’t segregate low-income families in the poor part of town. The city looked at building affordable housing in a middle-class neighborhood where tenants could benefit from being near well funded schools and job opportunities, but because of building and land costs, fewer homes could be built there. And then residents of that middle-class neighborhood successfully campaigned their elected officials not to build affordable housing there because they didn’t want it near them.

Desmond summed up the quandary of choices. What would have been better – more rental homes in a poor neighborhood away from well funded schools and job opportunities, fewer homes where there were more opportunities for a better quality of life, or what actually happened – no affordable homes were built at all?

“Our safe neighborhoods are not just better, they are intimately tied to the neighborhoods with lower quality housing and schools,” he said. “Another way to look at it is there are winners and losers, and there are winners because there are losers. Are we OK with that?”

He noted that the landlord of the trailer park in Milwaukee where he lived while writing the book made $400,000 a year.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact her directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

 

Community members share stories about what has worked, what hasn’t

Tags

, ,

Published in the Oct 11, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Community members share stories about what has worked, what hasn’t

by Amy Reinholds

Taking time to listen to our neighbors talking about what has worked – and what hasn’t – is a path to better understanding possible solutions to our housing challenges in Lyons.

On Sept. 27, the Lyons Regional Library hosted the “Rental Madness!” community discussion on renting in Lyons. Attendees included representatives from a property management company, a representative from Town of Lyons staff, and community members. Susan Spaulding, Community Relations Specialist for the City of Longmont, and an expert in tenant and landlord issues, brought resources including handouts about landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities, a how-to guide for roommates, and home sharing for seniors.

Several attendees were women in the baby boomer generation who previously were property owners but are now renters in Lyons, and a homeowner preparing to sell a home to have more flexibility and freedom to travel on a fixed income. Another attendee was a homeowner with questions about the requirements and the process for accessory dwelling units in detached buildings on single-family-home lots in the Town of Lyons. She connected with Ian Greer, enforcement officer for the Town of Lyons, to follow up later on questions.

As far as roommates, we learned that the Town of Lyons does have a requirement that no more than three unrelated people can live in a single-family home, similar to other municipalities. Sec. 16-1-160 of Town of Lyons code defines “family” as “a. Any number of persons related by blood, marriage, adoption, guardianship or other duly authorized custodial relationship; or b. Any unrelated group of persons consisting of not more than three persons.” Greer said that the Town of Lyons has received about three complaints since he’s been working for the town about the occupancies of rentals.

Landlords who rent month-to-month or longer leases don’t need to be licensed with the Town of Lyons, but any property owner who rents for shorter periods, for example, for vacation rentals on AirBnB, must get a short-term rental license from the Town of Lyons. Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) or mother-in-law apartments, can’t be used for short-term rentals, because the Town of Lyons wants to encourage lower-cost market rate rentals for people who work in town or who are retired.

A notable anecdote shared at the event was from a woman interested in a new garage apartment being built under the Lyons ADU ordinance. Because of the rental market in Lyons, she found out that the rent would be $1500 a month, way above her budget. Even though I’ve heard people call ADUs “affordable housing” or “low-income housing,” they are still market-rate in the Town of Lyons, and landlords can charge whatever tenants will pay.

The following resource list was shared at the meeting, and more resources will be available at the library. The attendees were polled to see if another session on the topic of rentals and housing options in Lyons would be helpful, and there was support for continuing the series.

Town of Lyons code:

Federal, state, and county resources for tenants and landlords:

Housing rights and discrimination resources:

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes since the 2013 flood. In March 2015, a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. After that vote, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals have been pursued, and Summit Housing Group’s planned purchase of land in Lyons Valley Park is the first step toward the building process. So far, the only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on six residential lots. There are currently 26 permanently affordable rental homes in the Town of Lyons (already in town before the September 2013 flood): eight apartments at Bloomfield Place near the Stone Cup cafe, 12 apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing near the post office, and six apartments at Mountain Gate on 2nd Ave, all operated by the Boulder County Housing Authority.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact her directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

Community learns more about Summit proposal for Lyons Valley Park

Tags

, ,

Published in the Sept 27, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder. A similar column was published in the September 19, 2018, edition of the Redstone Review.


COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Community learns more about Summit proposal for Lyons Valley Park

by Amy Reinholds

The public learned at a community meeting on Sept. 11 that Summit Housing Group wants to build 12 buildings of duplexes and triplexes (a total of 29 residences) on Lyons Valley Park Tract A of Filing 8, and 11 single family homes on 11 adjacent single family homes lots that are already platted. All these proposed homes would be rentals for people who earn about 40-60 percent of the area median income, Summit president Rusty Snow said.

Snow gave examples of rents for someone who earns 40 percent of the area median income (about $36,000 for a single person or more for a larger household size) as approximately $906 a month for a 2 bedroom rental home or $1045 a month for a 3 bedroom rental home, depending on family size. Flood-displaced residents are prioritized for these proposed homes, and Snow said he planned to work with the Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF) to reach out to possible future renters.

Summit Housing Group, which has a contract with Keith Bell of Lyons Valley Park Inc to buy the parcels, held a community meeting at the Lyons Middle/Senior High School and gave updates on a preliminary concept plan for the proposed homes. Snow and Denver-area architect Elizabeth Johnson presented updates and answered questions from neighbors in Lyons Valley Park and the broader community.

The density of the proposed 12 multifamily homes are actually less dense than the market-rate Lyons Valley Village multifamily homes that are already in Lyons Valley Park. According to information from Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen, Lyons Valley Village has 18 buildings on 2 acres, with about 30 total residences. [The density was later confirmed to be 11 total buildings on 2 acres, with a total of 18 residences. Of the 11 buildings, one is a community house, eight are duplexes, and two are single family homes. You can find out more information at www.lyonsvalleyvillage.info/about.] In comparison, the multifamily units that Summit is proposing are 12 buildings on 4 acres, with a total of 29 total residences. About 2.9 of those 4 acres are buildable, which means the remaining space on that Tract A will remain undeveloped. 

Snow and Johnson said that the 12 buildings of duplexes and triplexes would be two stories and not higher than 25 feet, and the 11 single family homes would be one story. They said they were interested in getting a copy of the Lyons Valley Park Homeowners Association (HOA) design guidelines so the buildings match the existing neighbors’ homes. Snow also said he was willing to discuss whether Summit would join the HOA.

Federal disaster recovery funds in the form of Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing are available to Summit at a maximum of $100,000 per rental home, up to $4 million for the total 40 residences. Total funds awarded must be spent by September 2019, and Snow said that there will not be an issue spending those funds on land acquisition and tap fees. He also said that Summit is not requesting discounted or waived tap fees from the Town of Lyons for building affordable homes.

Summit plans to use federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), which gives investors a reduction in their federal tax liability for every dollar they invest in financing to develop affordable rental housing. The investors’ equity contribution subsidizes the development, allowing housing units to rent at below-market rates (required to be 60 percent of area median income or lower). Renters complete applications and re-certify each year (and some income growth is allowed each year).

This proposal for Lyons Valley Park still has many more steps to go before it becomes a reality. The next steps are a site plan development review process for building the multifamily homes on Tract A, which is a public process and requires data such as a traffic study. The process begins with a public hearing before the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission and later goes to a public hearing before the Lyons Board of Trustees. Nearby homeowners and all community members can submit public comment either in person or in written comments for all the public hearings. The development process for single-family lots is like all others already platted in the subdivision and else where in Lyons, requiring a permitting and development process with the Town of Lyons.

Snow said on Sept. 11 that Summit expected to submit the site plan for the development review in the next 45 days. Summit entered into a new contract to purchase both Tract A and the 11 single-family parcels from owner Keith Bell on Sept. 3, and Snow estimated that Summit might be able to complete the purchase as early as the end of November.

This spring, Summit determined that the Lyons Valley Park subdivision agreement allows for multifamily density on 3.82 acres of Tract A of Filing 8, allowing about 27-29 homes (whether built by Summit or any future property owner), but not as many as the 43 that Summit had originally proposed. At Summit’s May community meeting, several homeowners in the Lyons Valley Park neighborhood encouraged Summit to build just the 29 homes on Tract A. But at the same meeting, the president of the Lyons Valley Park Homeowners Association said his attorneys did not agree that any multifamily housing was allowed in the subdivision agreement and announced that the HOA was prepared to go to court. At the Sept. 11 meeting, no official of the HOA announced a status of whether or not the HOA was going to court. Other than questions and concerns about parking and roads, no one expressed objections to the number of homes proposed. There was a question about whether multifamily housing was allowed “by right” on Tract A as part of the subdivision agreement, and the discussion centered around how multiple lawyers from both Summit and the Town of Lyons determined that a density of up to 29 multifamily homes was currently allowed on Tract A, without rezoning.

Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions affordable to people who make 60 percent of the area median income or less. The latest homes in Colorado are Centennial Park Apartments at 1205 Pace St. in Longmont. The property management site for Summit buildings, www.leasehighland.com, shows what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit, including the homes in Longmont.

summit-concept-plan-lyons-valley-park.jpg

Concept plan for Lyons Valley Park rental homes presented by Summit on Sept. 11, 2018

 

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (including the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.

In March 2015, a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. Some other subsidized affordable rentals have been proposed in the past year, including Summit’s proposal in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision and a proposal from the Greens partnership to purchase town-owned land on Hwy 66, east of Hwy 36 (adjacent to the new town public works building that is under construction). The proposal from the Greens partnership includes an innovative food agriculture business, a commercial kitchen, other business space, and affordable rental homes from Thistle Community Housing, but steps have not moved to a purchase agreement yet. So far, the only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on six residential lots. To volunteer or to donate to Habitat for Humanity construction costs in Lyons, go to www.stvrainhabitat.org.

 

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact her directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

Don’t miss “Rental Madness!” at the library Sept. 26

Tags

, , , ,

Published in the Sept 20, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Don’t miss “Rental Madness!” at the library on Wednesday, Sept. 26

by Amy Reinholds

In the past few years, as new people move to town and housing prices continued to rise, both homeowners and renters in Lyons have questions about everything from roommates and leases to town requirements for granny flats and AirBnB. A community conversation at the Lyons Regional Library on Sept. 26 aims to be a place to seek answers for all those questions.

The “Rental Madness!” community discussion on renting in Lyons is held at the library on Main Street, this coming Wednesday from 6:30-8 p.m. Susan Spaulding, Community Relations Specialist for the City of Longmont, and an expert in tenant and landlord issues, will moderate the discussion. Renters, landlords, and other homeowners are welcome to attend, enjoy refreshments, and join the conversation.

I think this community event will be a place to get started with individual questions about leases, short-term and long-term rentals, housemates, how to be a good landlord, requirements for accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and anything about renting in Lyons. And it might even be an opportunity to share ideas and come up with collaborative solutions for some our housing challenges in Lyons.

Community members from both in town and surrounding areas are invited to ask questions, learn about resources, and share ideas. For more information, see https://lyons.colibraries.org/calendar/?mc_id=4603.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact her directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

IMG_1172

Gratitude, grit, hope, and opportunities: five years after the flood

Tags

,

Published in the Sept 13, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Gratitude, grit, hope, and opportunities

by Amy Reinholds

At Monday’s five-year commemoration of the flood event with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, several speakers honored the people of the Lyons community for resilience and finding opportunity despite the tragedy we experienced.

Hailey Odell, read a poem, “What If” that she wrote when she was in elementary school trying to make sense of the flood in September 2013. Her poem was part of a book “Through Our Eyes: Lyons elementary School Children Remember the September 2013 Flood.”

Odell’s poem included the lines “…what if this is more than just a disaster, what if this the greatest opportunity of my life, the opportunity to link arms with someone else, someone you never thought of before…”

Governor Hickenlooper recognized Lyons for “your sense of resilience and indomitable will” and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet said “your vision to find opportunity in tragedy” to build back stronger and better “speak to the best of Colorado.”5year-flood-anniversary-hickenlooper

Hickenlooper talked about the “most destructive flood in the history of the state” with $4 billion in damages, 1,800 homes damaged, and 18,000 people displaced during the flood. He said that a former governor told him right after the flood, “For people who lost so much, you can’t build back the way it was before, you’ve got to build it better.” He expressed that we are doing that in Lyons. “Everything about this community is inspiring.”

Lyons Mayor Connie Sullivan referenced the “Lyons: We got grit” bumper stickers and listed many ways that grit was represented, including “every elected official since the flood not giving up on replacing affordable housing that was lost in the flood.”

At the event Monday morning, Sept. 10, in Bohn Park, a total of nine speakers offered their memories and thanked all those who helped in Lyons recovery over the past five years. A tree was planted in Bohn Park in honor of Gerry Boland, who died in the flood.

Mindy Tallent, who owns the Stone Cup cafe with her husband, Sam Tallent, illustrated the continuing need for affordable housing with her words.

“All of our lives have changed,” she said. “The lack of affordable housing has changed the feel of this town.”

Tallent highlighted challenges as a business trying to find employees. As the housing market continues to rise, and there are fewer homes than there were before the flood, she said, “The demographic changes have made it nearly impossible to work at local businesses and afford to live here.”

“Life is different in Lyons,” Tallent said. “Many are still displaced and unable to return home.”

Yet she ended, “We are hopeful and grateful.”

By the time this column is published, the community will be coming together to commemorate the impromptu barbecue and picnic five years ago outside the Stone Cup cafe. After almost two days of immediate work as the community helped neighbors escape from the flood waters, and many neighbors temporarily moved in with friends up the hill or across town, the town utilities were shut off, and we knew we were going to have to leave town in the aftermath of the flood. People brought meat from freezers to grill outside our local neighborhood cafe on Sept. 13, 2013. Sam and Mindy Tallent hosted people bringing whatever food they had. There was plenty to share. Five years to the day, the community is holding a Flood Reflection and Community Picnic Sept. 13, 2018 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the newly rebuilt Bohn Park. Town officials will give updates on recovery progress, and all are invited to commemorate and share stories of the five-year journey.

If we follow the poem that Hailey Odell wrote as an elementary school student, we can continue our recovery with the greatest opportunity of our lives. We can link arms with people we might not have thought of before and create affordable housing to replace the flood-destroyed homes that were lost.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (including the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.

In March 2015, a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498.

Some other subsidized affordable rentals have been proposed in the past year, including on land that Summit Housing Group wants to purchase in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision. But so far, the only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 Park Street. Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on six residential lots the non-profit purchased in late 2016 from Craig Ferguson of Planet Bluegrass and his LLC, south of the former Valley Bank building (which remains on a separate commercial lot). The Lyons Board of Trustees voted in 2015 to waive water and sewer connection fees that they have control over for Habitat for Humanity. The total of about $173,500 in savings helped Habitat for Humanity meet its permitting and fees budget for the Park Street homes, keeping mortgages down to about $150,000 for homeowners. Applicants to purchase all six of the homes were selected by April of this year. To volunteer or to donate to Habitat for Humanity construction costs in Lyons, go to www.stvrainhabitat.org.

I’ve collaborated with some people I didn’t know before the flood, and people I never knew I would work with, and our community is now building six homes out of the 76-94 that were lost. The Town of Lyons does have the chance to see maybe 30 or 40 more new affordable homes, if we are willing to link arms and take an opportunity. I’m willing to be both hopeful and grateful like Mindy Tallent.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact her directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

Next week’s events remember where we’ve been and look to a possible future

Tags

, , ,

Published in the Sept 6, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?)

Next week’s events remember where we’ve been and look to a possible future

by Amy Reinholds

Almost five years have passed since the waters of the North and South St. Vrain Rivers revealed their immense and destructive powers in unexpected ways, changing the Town of Lyons forever.

Events next week remember where we’ve been and what we have come through. On Monday, Sept. 10, from 10-11:30 a.m., Governor John Hickenlooper and state and local officials commemorate the five-year anniversary of the flood in Bohn Park. On Thursday, Sept. 13, the Town of Lyons encourages the Lyons community to come together in Bohn Park for a five-year Flood Reflection and Community Picnic from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Town officials will give updates on recovery progress, and all are invited to commemorate and share stories of the five-year journey.

In between those two commemoration events, a Tuesday, Sept. 11, community meeting from Summit Housing Group discusses possible new affordable housing – part of our town’s flood recovery that is not yet accomplished but could be in our future. Summit is planning to purchase land in Lyons Valley Park to build affordable rental homes and invites all in the community to learn more about proposals from 6-8 p.m. at Lyons Middle/Senior High School Cafetorium.

Then, some of us who volunteered on the Housing Recovery Task Force in 2013-2015 are rounding out the week of the five-year flood anniversary by volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity build site on Friday, Sept. 14. This is a way to give back, helping construct the small amount of new affordable housing that is a reality in Lyons: 6 homes in three duplexes at 112 Park Street. If you want to gather a group to volunteer on future dates, or to donate to the construction costs in Lyons, go to www.stvrainhabitat.org.

These events sum up the past five years with thoughts about what we’ve come through, possibilities for the future, and hard work in the here and now.

Most of the physical scars are gone now. Government funds have reconstructed parks and roads. Homeowners have rebuilt homes, sold them to other owners, or sold them as part of the federal buyout program. Renters and mobile home owners have moved several times since then, some finding new opportunities in other towns and other states, and some managing to rent in Lyons in a rising market while their children attend school here and they work or run businesses here. One mobile home park has become a wedding venue, where people spend money on celebrating new beginnings, maybe unaware of the people who once lived there or what the land looked like in the aftermath of the flood. Another mobile home park was part of the federal buyout program, and is gradually transforming to be part of the new green space surrounding a trail to our beautiful, popular town parks.

 THE JOURNEY STARTS WITH 76-94 LOST HOMES

The Town of Lyons has weathered many challenges in the rebuilding and recovery process.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (including the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.

Affordable housing hit a roadblock in the flood recovery journey in March 2015. A proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498.

SIX HABITAT FOR HUMANITY HOMES UNDER CONSTRUCTION

But Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on the Town of Lyons and its need for housing that people displaced by the flood can afford. So far, the only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 Park Street. Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on land the non-profit purchased from Craig Ferguson and his Planet Bluegrass partners at the end of 2016.

Applicants to purchase all six of the homes were selected by April of this year. Habitat for Humanity is hoping that many of the homeowners will be celebrating the new year in completed homes, but more volunteer labor and donations are needed. The preference policy gave first preference for applicants displaced as a result of the flood disaster of 2013, who maintained their primary residence in the Lyons area (80540 zip code) at the time of the flood. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference is for applicants at 60% of area median income or below (and possibly as much as 80% of the area median income was allowed for Lyons). A permanently affordable restriction means that homeowners who sell their homes in the future must sell to qualified buyers who are in that same income range.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. Mortgages are about $150,000 (depending on some custom options). The range of monthly mortgage payments including taxes and insurance will range from about $650 to $850 for all the homeowners in Lyons, depending on income and household size. All Habitat for Humanity homeowners complete about 250 volunteer hours per adult in each household, which includes attending financial and home-ownership classes, as well as working on construction of their own and their neighbors’ homes.

POSSIBLE AFFORDABLE RENTAL HOMES

Some subsidized affordable rental homes have been proposed in the past year, but no land has changed hands yet. Summit Housing Group is negotiating with Keith Bell of Lyons Valley Park Inc. to purchase Lyons Valley Park subdivision Tract A of Filing 8 for building 29 affordable rental homes in multifamily buildings like duplexes and triplexes – and possibly an additional 11 single family home lots. Summit is interested in building affordable single family homes on those 11 lots, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen told the Lyons Board of Trustees in August. We’ll all find out more at Summit’s community meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at Lyons Middle/Senior High School.

Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions affordable to people who make 60 percent of the area median income or less. The federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) gives investors a reduction in their federal tax liability for every dollar they invest in financing to develop affordable rental housing. The investors’ equity contribution subsidizes the development, allowing housing units to rent at below-market rates.

This spring, Summit determined that the Lyons Valley Park subdivision agreement allows for multifamily density on 3.82 acres of Tract A of Filing 8, allowing about 27-29 homes (whether built by Summit or any future property owner), but not as many as the 43 that Summit had originally proposed. Lyons Valley Village, a co-housing community built in the early 2000s, is an example of multifamily density in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision.

At a May community meeting, input from several homeowners in the Lyons Valley Park neighborhood encouraged Sam Long, Summit senior project manager, to consider building only 29 homes instead of the 43 homes that Summit was originally planning for Tract A of Lyons Valley Park. But at the same meeting, the president of the Lyons Valley Park Homeowners Association said his attorney did not agree that any multifamily housing was allowed in the subdivision agreement and announced that the Homeowners Association was prepared to go to court.

Summit typically provides homes with rents available in four levels based on percentages of area median income (AMI), Summit president Rusty Snow explained at a Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission meeting in July. The rents are set for households with income at 30 percent or lower AMI, 40-31 percent AMI, 50-41 percent AMI, and 60-51 percent AMI. Snow gave examples of the broad range of incomes, from a one-person household with a $23,000 annual income up to a five-person household with a $70,000 annual income. Each of the four income levels have different rents, also based on family size. Examples of rents for two-bedroom apartments are $661 a month for a 30 percent AMI household, and $1,200 a month for a 60 percent AMI household.

Snow said that if Summit could acquire more land to build additional homes elsewhere in Lyons, financing could allow for more rents at the lower-income categories. He also confirmed that a preference policy like Habitat for Humanity uses would be in place for Summit rentals proposed for Lyons. People who were living in the 80540 area during the 2013 flood and were displaced from their homes have first priority.

Another option for possible affordable rentals that has been discussed in the past year is part of a proposal from the Greens partnership to purchase town-owned land on Hwy 66, east of Hwy 36 (adjacent to the new town public works building that is under construction). The proposal from the Greens partnership includes an innovative food agriculture business, a commercial kitchen, other business space, and affordable rental homes from Thistle Community Housing. The Greens partners include Donna Merten of Boulder-based real estate development firm Merten Development and Paul Tamburello, who has developed and consulted on several well-known projects around the Highland neighborhood of Denver and serves on the board of directors of GrowHaus, a nonprofit indoor farm and educational center in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood. The Lyons Board of Trustees plans another meeting with the Greens partnership to follow up this fall.

What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons? Decisions and actions in the next year could affect the rest of our journey. Since April 2015 I’ve been writing this weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the flood. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com. To help shape the future of Lyons, please get involved, share your story, and attend meetings.

30896813493_b2b9babee4_o