Government shutdown may delay funding decisions

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Published in the January 17, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Government shutdown may delay funding decisions

by Amy Reinholds

Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen reported to the Lyons Board of Trustees on Jan. 7 that the government shutdown is delaying decisions about funding for Town of Lyons projects to rebuild from the 2013 flood.

“With the government shutdown, several of our [flood reconstruction] projects that are awaiting FEMA approval are now held up from being approved,” Simonsen told the trustees during her Administrator report. She mentioned that the 2nd Avenue bridge was an example.

The government shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history. Annual budget appropriations that are decided by the U.S. Congress were not enacted for federal agencies that had been operating on a series of temporary extensions, and the last extension expired on Dec. 21. The House of Representatives has voted on bills to reopen more closed government departments, but that legislation was declared “dead-on-arrival” in the Republican-controlled Senate because of a veto threat from the president, according to the Washington Post. Of about 800,000 employees in the nine Cabinet departments and various smaller agencies, about 380,000 employees have been furloughed without pay while the rest have been working without pay.

And it’s more than bridges that could be affected by delays in funding. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is one of the agencies that is part of the shutdown, and Simonsen said in her report to trustees that decisions on funding for Summit Housing Group’s applications for 40 affordable rental homes in Lyons could be delayed.

“We continue to meet with Summit every week,” she said. “January is the month set aside to review all the affordable housing applications and approve [federal Low Income Housing] Tax Credits and their funding,” she said. “I have not heard yet what the status is of that decision-making during the shutdown, but it’s all the more reason to call our congresspeople and tell them we have a need here.”

Summit Housing Group, based in Missoula, Mt., specializes in developing and managing low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. Summit plans to purchase land in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision to build 11 single family homes and 29 homes in duplex and triplex buildings – all rental homes affordable 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 (29 homes in duplexes and triplexes, and 11 single-family homes). This funding, as well as federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) helps subsidize the rents to be affordable. Typically, applications are reviewed in January, and the LIHTC is awarded in February.

For the rental homes that Summit Housing Group is proposing, the income levels of renters would be 60 percent of the area median income or less. Past discussions from Summit representatives have described income levels in the 40 percent of the area median income, about $36,000 for a single person (or more for a larger household size) and up to a five-person household with a $70,000 annual income for 60 percent of the area median income. The area median income changes every year. You can download the 2018 Colorado County Income and Rent Tables at www.leaflyons.org/resources.html. Examples of rent estimates that Summit representatives have given at past meetings for two-bedroom apartments are $906 a month for a 40 percent AMI household, and $1,200 a month for a 60 percent AMI household, varying depending on family size. The property management site for Summit buildings, www.leasehighland.com, shows what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit in six states, including homes in Longmont.

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 and sewer 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 sewer customer account). 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 recovery 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.


This column is a commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

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New advantages for property owners who want “tiny homes on wheels” as ADUs

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Published in the January 10, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

New advantages for property owners who want “tiny homes on wheels” as ADUs

by Amy Reinholds

A majority of the Lyons Board of Trustees voted on Jan. 7 for an ordinance that gives new advantages to property owners who want to bring in tiny homes on wheels (registered as RVs) as accessory dwelling units in the backyards of their single family home residential lots. Does this change in accessory dwelling unit (ADU) code give any advantages to renters who are struggling to find a place they can afford to rent in town? It’s not clear.

There are currently about 60 accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in the Town of Lyons. Research that town staff reported to the Lyons Board of Trustees in August found approximately 55 non-compliant ADUs in the Town of Lyons (including allowed historically non-compliant ADUs built before some areas had town zoning). And since May 2017, conditional use reviews were completed and approved under the existing ADU policy for five new detached ADU buildings. The existing Lyons ADU ordinance already allowed small carriage houses that are built on site or are modular homes contracted off-site, as long as they meet International Building Code (IRC) and fit into the size requirements of the ADU ordinance. The new changes in town code approved Jan. 7 now allow tiny homes on wheels that do not fit into the IRC code that building inspectors use, but are built according to recreational vehicle (RV) standards like American National Standards Institute Park Model Recreational Vehicle Standard 119.5, National Electrical Code Standards 551 and 552, and National Fire Protection Association Standard 1192. The term “tiny homes on wheels” or sometimes just “tiny homes” describes a trend that started in the early 2000s of small constructed homes that are on built on a trailer frame with axles and wheels, registered like RVs. I’ve heard people describe tiny homes on wheels as “gentrified RVs.”

After a public hearing of mainly business owners related to the tiny homes on wheels industry and tiny home living advocates from Boulder and Colorado Springs, five out of seven trustees voted to allow tiny homes on wheels as ADUs in the Town of Lyons. Mayor Connie Sullivan, Trustee Juli Waugh, Trustee Barney Dreistadt, Trustee Mark Browning, and Trustee Jocelyn Farrell all voted in favor of the changes to town code. Although home owners associations do not allow ADUs, Mayor Sullivan said the neighborhood where she and Trustee Dreistadt live, Eagle Canyon, “when it gets older” might eventually change so that it no longer prohibits ADUs. Does that mean that Eagle Canyon might one day see tiny homes on wheels in backyards?

Trustee Wendy Miller and Trustee Mike Karavas voted against allowing tiny homes on wheels as ADUs. Trustee Miller expressed concerns about why tiny homes on wheels would be allowed when other RVs are not. “I don’t think this is going to create more affordable housing, in fact I think it might be the opposite. I think it might put the last nail in the coffin as far as gentrification.” Miller had previously raised the issue of tiny homes on wheels having a vehicle identification number and not paying into property taxes like other ADUs would as property improvements. She said that she thought manufactured housing (mobile homes), which are inspected by the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and meet IRC code, are more safe than tiny homes on wheels and other RVs. She did get confirmation from Town Planner Paul Glasgow at the Jan 7 meeting that a mobile home that met the small size requirement (depending on the size of the main house) would also be allowed as an ADU under the changed ordinance. Trustee Karavas cited issues of neighborhoods where the Lyons Fire Protection District has expressed concern that fire hydrants don’t have enough pressure for existing homes. “We haven’t completed the testing of fire hydrants,” he said. “I also have concerns that that we are telling people that other kinds of housing are not welcome in Lyons.” His statement implies that owners of other RVs that are not “tiny homes on wheels” might expect that their RVs should be allowed as ADUs also.

You can read the existing ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units. Applicants for all detached ADUs (including tiny homes on wheels) must go through a conditional use review process, including a public hearing for their immediate neighbors and the general public to comment. 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. The process for adding ADUs 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. An existing advantage to homeowners is that ADUs can share utility connection fees with the main house, saving homeowners $20,000-$40,000 in construction costs. Like all ADUs, tiny homes on wheels are required to be attached to all Town of Lyons utilities. In addition, the tiny homes on wheels are required to be anchored and secured and attached to all utilities. Also, occupancy of these tiny homes on wheels are limited to a maximum of four people.

The ordinance, described as experimental by both Glasgow and several of the trustees, has a number limit and a year limit before a future Board of Trustees needs to review it again. The ordinance states that no more than ten tiny homes on wheels can be used as ADUs within Lyons town limits, and a future Board of Trustees may “review the effects of tiny homes on wheels on Lyons’s affordable housing inventory” and vote to allow more. (However, it is not clear to me what “the effects of tiny homes on Lyons’s affordable housing inventory” are or how they will be measured.) Also, the tiny homes on wheels subsection of the ADU ordinance will expire in five years after adoption, although a future board can review and reinstate it.

Mayor Sullivan introduced an ordinance to remove the 5-year sunset clause, but she was voted down by 5 of the trustees. Trustee Browning said the sunset clause “serves a useful purpose because this is such an experimental ordinance.”

Trustee Farrell, although she voted for the tiny homes on wheels changes to the ADU policy, wanted to see the minimum rental period for all ADUs raised to at least 3 months, or maybe 6 months, instead of month-to-month. Mayor Sullivan and Trustee Waugh convinced her not to pursue changing the limit only for the tiny homes on wheels ordinance, but to instead bring it to a future meeting revisiting the overall ADU ordinance. “I think 30 days minimum is too close to promoting a hotel type environment in neighborhoods,” she said. “We need to have enforcement so we don’t have a VRBO community. I like the idea that people being in a home longer will be more entrenched in our community.”

Tiny homes on wheels have not been proven to cost less than building ADUs on site, or bringing in modular buildings for ADUs, all which are already allowed in the Town of Lyons ADU ordinance. According to TinyHouseTalk.com, pre-built tiny homes on wheels cost around $40,000-$50,000, although other websites show prices up to $100,000. Spruce.com found the median price in the U.S. for tiny homes on wheels was $59,884 in 2017, and local Lyons area builder Simblissity currently has one for sale for $89,000. Why would a homeowner paying this much for a tiny home on wheels charge less rent than for a modular or an on-site built ADU?

This change to town code for market-rate ADUs does not keep rental rates low like a proposal from Summit Housing Group for rentals in duplexes, triplexes, and single family homes would do. Summit 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, would help subsidize the rents to be affordable for those lower incomes.

Finally, the decisions that the Lyons Board of Trustees made on Jan. 7 do not affect the rural areas in Boulder County and Larimer County outside the town limits of Lyons. People looking for landowners who will allow them to park tiny homes on wheels on their rural properties aren’t affected by Town of Lyons ordinances if the property is not in town limits of the Town of Lyons. However they would need to find out the rural Boulder County or Larimer County land use codes that apply to those properties, depending where they are located.

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 and sewer 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 sewer customer account). 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. (Ironically, that lodging at the former mobile home park is in tiny homes on wheels.)

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.


This column is a commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

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Don’t miss the Jan. 7 Trustees meeting if you care about ADUs in Lyons

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Published in the January 3, 2019,  edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Don’t miss the Jan. 7 Trustees meeting if you care about ADUs in Lyons

by Amy Reinholds

On Monday, Jan. 7, the Lyons Board of Trustees is expected to vote on an ordinance that would allow homeowners to bring in tiny homes on wheels (registered as RVs) as accessory dwelling units in the backyards of single family home residential lots in town limits. Accessory dwelling units, also known as ADUs, carriage houses, or mother-in-law apartments, are currently allowed on single family home or “low density” residential lots in the Town of Lyons, if homeowners go through a conditional use review process. The current Lyons ADU ordinance allows small carriage house that are built on site or are modular homes contructed off-site, as long as they meet International Building Code (IRC) and fit into the size requirements of the ADU ordinance.

However, more than a year ago, Mayor Connie Sullivan requested that the town planning staff and the Planning and Community Development Commission look into whether tiny homes on wheels, which do not fit into the IRC code that building inspectors use, could also be allowed as ADUs in the Town of Lyons. The term “tiny homes on wheels” or sometimes just “tiny homes” describes a trend that started in the early 2000s of small constructed homes that are on built on a trailer frame with axles and wheels, registered like RVs.

The public hearing on Jan. 7 is the public’s last opportunity to give input to the trustees on this proposed change to town code that affects those of us you live in residential zones in the Town of Lyons. Board of Trustees meetings are held at 7 p.m. at Lyons Town Hall. Check the agenda for the public hearing about “tiny homes as accessory dwelling units.”

I compiled the following list of five realities that I think have been left out of recent conversations about tiny homes on wheels. Review these facts to consider how the Town of Lyons could be affected. You can see everything I have written about ADUs at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/tag/adus.

1.) I am not against tiny homes on wheels. I just don’t think they work for ADUs in residential zones in Lyons town limits.

Tiny homes on wheels are great options for people who have the means to build them, buy them, and move them around as RVs or temporary cabins in remote areas. I also have learned about how nonprofits have used tiny homes on wheels in large cities addressing homelessness with temporary, transitional housing for people whose only options in the past have been camping outdoors in tents or vehicles. A success story is Square One Villages in Eugene, Ore., which I learned about at the 2017 Conference of World Affairs at the University of Colorado.

None of these kinds of options are being proposed in the Town of Lyons, however. Please let me know if the WeeCasa tiny homes on wheels lodging at Riverbend or other areas of Lyons are planning on providing tiny homes for homeless people. I would love to write about an initiative like that in an upcoming column.

2.) The Lyons Board of Trustees is not voting on Jan. 7 “whether to allow tiny homes (on wheels) in the Town of Lyons,” although I’ve seen that appear in several regional publications and social media statements. Instead, the trustees are voting on modifying the current ADU ordinance to allow homeowners on residential lots in town to bring in tiny homes on wheels RVs as carriage houses, anchor and secure them, and attach them to all utilities. Currently homeowners who want to build ADUs must build them on site or bring in a modular building. The existing Lyons ADU ordinance already allows small mother-in-law apartments or carriage houses to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners $20,000-$40,000 in construction costs) in residential zones.

You can read the current ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units. Applicants must go through a conditional use review process, including a public hearing for their immediate neighbors and the general public to comment. 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. The process for adding ADUs 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.

Finally, if you’re talking about just using tiny homes on wheels as the RVs that they are, all RVs are definitely already allowed in Town of Lyons campgrounds, such as LaVern M. Johnson Park. See townoflyons.com/348/Parks-Facilities.

3.) Tiny homes on wheels have not been proven to cost less than building ADUs on site, or bringing in modular buildings for ADUs, all which are currently allowed in the Town of Lyons ADU ordinance.

According to TinyHouseTalk.com, pre-built tiny homes on wheels cost around $40,000-$50,000, although other websites show prices up to $100,000. Spruce.com found the median price in the U.S. for tiny homes on wheels was $59,884 in 2017, and local Lyons area builder Simblissity currently has one for sale for $89,000. As someone who cares about affordable housing, this is my biggest concern: the town planner has said that homeowners say that ADUs make the property more affordable to them. However, there is no restriction on how much the homeowners can charge tenants who rent the ADUs. That’s nice if this approach could help increase “affordability” for the property owners in our community, but what about affordability for the renters?

The supply of ADUs aren’t limited with the current town code. Research that town staff reported to the Lyons Board of Trustees in August found approximately 55 non-compliant ADUs in the Town of Lyons (including allowed historically non-compliant ADUs built before some areas had town zoning). And since May 2017, conditional use reviews were completed and approved under the new ADU policy for five new detached ADU buildings. That’s a total of 60 ADUs. To encourage ADUs, the Town of Lyons doesn’t need to add tiny homes on wheels as an allowed way to build them, especially if there’s not proof that they even save the homeowners money in constructing the ADUs.

No one has shown that the cost of bringing in a tiny home on wheels, securing it, and connecting it to town utilities saves the homeowner any more money than other ways to build ADUs. So why would a homeowner charge less rent for a tiny home on wheels than for a modular or an on-site built ADU?

4.) The current ADU policy in the Town of Lyons already allows ADUs that are tiny.

The ADUs can either be built on site, or modular housing can be brought in. Current town code allows modular housing for ADUs, something that Trustee Barney Dreistadt has asked about at previous meetings. A homeowner can bring in a modular home constructed off-site for an ADU, as long as it fits in the size requirements (dependent on size of the main house, but no larger than 800 square feet). Modular homes, which arrive to the site in pieces, are constructed on residential lots. Both of those kinds of ADUs meet IRC standards that building inspectors use. However the proposed change is to allow tiny homes on wheels RVs, which don’t meet the IRC. The proposed changes to the Town of Lyons code would allow tiny homes on wheels that are built according to recreational vehicle (RV) standards like American National Standards Institute Park Model Recreational Vehicle Standard 119.5, National Electrical Code Standards 551 and 552, and National Fire Protection Association Standard 1192.

5.) The rural areas in Boulder County and Larimer County outside the town limits of the Town of Lyons are not covered by this decision or any other decisions that the Lyons Board of Trustees makes about tiny homes on wheels.

People looking for landowners who will allow them to park tiny homes on wheels on their rural properties aren’t affected by Town of Lyons ordinances if the property is not in town limits of the Town of Lyons. However they would need to find out the rural Boulder County or Larimer County land use codes that apply to those properties, depending where they are located.

 

 

This column is a commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

 

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The year in review: affordable housing

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Published in the Dec. 27, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder. A shorter column was published in the Dec. 19, 2018 edition of the Redstone Review.


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

The year in review: affordable housing

by Amy Reinholds

2018 started with an orientation for interested applicants for Habitat for Humanity and foundations poured for two of the duplex foundations at 112 Park Street. The year also began with the Lyons Board of Trustees authorizing a purchase and sale agreement that gave the Town of Lyons an option to buy Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8 with the intention of working with public and private sectors to replace some of the housing lost in the 2013 flood.

Now the year is ending with homeowners for all six Habitat for Humanity homes selected. Generous volunteers have donated funds to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley and invested time constructing the homes alongside future homeowners, who will be purchasing their homes on Park Street later in 2019 after the three duplex buildings are finished. And Summit Housing Group is now under contract with Keith Bell of Lyons Valley Park, Inc., to purchase not only Tract A of the Lyons Valley Park subdivision with the intention to build 29 homes in duplex and triplex buildings, but also 11 homes on single family home lots already platted. All proposed 40 homes would be affordable rentals. Summit is submitting applications for funding for both the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) program and $4 million in federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds, and expects to find out about funding in February of the new year.

Both the Habitat for Humanity for-purchase homes, and the proposed rentals from Summit Housing Group are for permanently affordable housing, which means homes that are lower than market rate, set at costs that are set to be affordable for specific income levels. Also, both of these affordable housing options are set aside for people who were displaced as a result of the flood disaster of September 2013.

For the Habitat for Humanity homes, mortgages are about $150,000 (depending on some custom options). Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley explained that 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. Homeowners income is at 60 percent of the area median income or lower.

For the rental homes that Summit Housing Group is proposing, the income levels of renters would be 60 percent of the area median income or less. Past discussions from Summit representatives have described income levels in the 40 percent of the area median income, about $36,000 for a single person, or more for a larger household size and up to a five-person household with a $70,000 annual income for 60 percent of the area median income. The area median income changes every year. You can download 2018 Colorado County Income and Rent Tables at www.leaflyons.org/resources.html. Examples of rents that Summit representatives have given at past meetings for two-bedroom apartments are $906 a month for a 40 percent AMI household, and $1,200 a month for a 60 percent AMI household, depending on family size. The property management site for Summit buildings, www.leasehighland.com, shows what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit in six states, including homes in Longmont.

In the previous two years, the Lyons Board of Trustees has been trying to find land for affordable housing, to not lose $4 million in federal funds set aside for Lyons. Other federal funds were lost in 2015 when 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 units) was rejected in a town vote: 498 Lyons voters supported it, and 614 Lyons voters opposed it. Lyons lost about 76-94 flood-destroyed homes, including Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts and 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 and lodging venue (rezoned for commercial use).

So in reviewing 2018, I’m pleased to say that strides for affordable housing were made, although more work is still ahead. The Habitat for Humanity homes are getting closer to completion each day that volunteers work, and the future homeowners are getting closer to their purchase dates. The proposal from Summit Housing group could give the Lyons community a choice for rental homes that won’t go up with the rental market, although the financing and purchase of the land won’t be finalized until a few months into 2019.

Earlier in the year, some other parcels were pursued to build affordable rental homes, but none got as far along in the process as Summit’s proposal for Lyons Valley Park. A proposal from the Greens group, which included innovative food farming and Thistle Community Housing rental homes on town owned land east of Hwy 66 and U.S. 36, did not get through the planning stages in time for the $4 million in federal disaster funds for housing to be used. However, I don’t know if that partnership will pursue purchasing land and building in the future, with other funding. And nothing came of discussions by the Town of Lyons or affordable housing developers to purchase 19617 N. St. Vrain Drive, next to the Baseline-Mocon industrial parcel and near the Eagle Canyon subdivision.

Here’s a summary of some of the other changes in the past year related to affordable housing:

Inspired by passages in the Book of Micah about overcoming injustice and defending the rights of the poor, the United Church of Christ Longmont donated about a quarter of an acre to the Inn Between nonprofit, which is building six supportive rental homes for people on very low fixed incomes. The project broke ground in 2018. Could this model work in the Lyons community if local churches have land available? See Church donates land for affordable apartments in Longmont.

This year also saw a non-profit in Larimer County take a new approach to homesharing. In the first six months of its new HomeShare program, the Larimer County nonprofit Neighbor to Neighbor has matched five pairs of homeowners aged 55 and older (called “HomeProviders”) and renters (called “HomeSeekers”) who are looking for an affordable housemate situation. 

The HomeShare program grew out of a discussion about the need for low-cost rentals in Larimer County, and the preferences for baby boomers and older homeowners to age in place. It is based on the simple idea of two or more people sharing a home for mutual benefit. A person offers a private bedroom and shared common space in exchange for low-cost rent, help around the home, or a combination of the two. Neighbor to Neighbor facilitates the HomeShare program by providing a housing counselor to help match homeowners and tenants and to help create a lease and living agreement for both parties. The average monthly rent is about $600. Some monthly rents are as low as $300 and some as high as $750, and some include discounts for housemates who agree to completing regular tasks and chores such as walking dogs or preparing meals.

If we in Boulder County could find a non-profit to administer a similar program, we could have ways to help both older people concerned about living alone, and people of all ages who need lower-cost rents.

In 2018, I didn’t see evidence that renters who struggle to find a place to live in the Town of Lyons that they can afford have it any easier than before. However, I am grateful that in the past year the Town of Lyons began enforcing the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance, which prohibits homeowners who have mother-in-law apartments or carriage houses on their single family home residential lots from renting short-term vacation rentals on sites like AirBnb. The break in about $20,000-$40,000 in construction costs that homeowners receive because ADUs can share utility connection fees with the main house was intended to increase the supply of smaller rentals in the town of Lyons for people who work here. Rents are still market rate, but expected to be lower cost. So I’m glad to see our town enforce this ordinance. I like seeing employees of local businesses living in our residential neighborhoods as renters who are part of our community. It is important to note that in the past year, the town ordinances also changed so that short-term vacation rentals are now allowed for the first time, but only as guests in the homes where homeowners live (such as renting out a room or a suite within your house), if the homeowner gets a short-term vacation rental license. You can get more information at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units and www.townoflyons.com/592/Short-Term-Rentals.

I don’t support changing the current ADU ordinance to allow homeowners to bring in tiny homes on wheels (registered as RVs) as ADUs. I don’t see evidence that adding tiny homes on wheels as ADUs would help homeowners save money, and therefore encourage more ADUs as rentals in town for people who are seeking affordable places to live. Currently, a homeowner can build a small building on site or can bring in a modular home constructed off-site for an ADU, as long as it fits in the size requirements (dependent on size of the main house, but no larger than 800 square feet). Modular homes, which arrive to the site in pieces and are constructed on residential lots, meet the International Residential Code (IRC) requirements that building inspection companies use. The cost of purchasing and bringing in a tiny homes on wheels RV to a backyard of an existing house, securing it, and connecting it to town utilities, has not been shown to cost less than the other ways of currently building ADUs. A public hearing on allowing the tiny homes on wheels RVs as ADUs is expected to be held on Jan. 7, 2019. Board of Trustees meetings are held at 7 p.m. at Lyons Town Hall. You can see everything I have written about ADUs here: lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/tag/adus.

Finally, I’m glad that there are several resources for tenants and landlords available in our community. The Lyons Library District hosted a community conversation at the library in September, where members of the community, including property managers, renters, and homeowners shared information and got resources from the town and community. Attendees expressed interest in more community conversations on the topic of renting in Lyons, which I hope continue in 2019. In the meantime, here are some useful community resources:

The Landlord/Tenant information from City of Longmont (includes general and State of Colorado info, although some is specific to City of Longmont) at www.longmontcolorado.gov/departments/departments-a-d/community-and-neighborhood-resources/landlord-tenant.

Here’s wishing everyone enjoyable end-of-the year holidays with family and friends. We’ve got a lot to look forward to in 2019, including building opportunities for everyone in our talented and caring community to thrive and find an affordable and safe place to live. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Six Habitat for Humanity homes in Lyons!

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

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

Habitat for Humanity homes in Lyons!

by Amy Reinholds

Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is celebrating its 30th anniversary at the end of 2018, and the work at 112 Park Street is Lyons is an exciting part of the nonprofit’s work. “The 99th and 100th homes that we complete in the coming year will be the first duplex in Lyons,” Director of Development John Lovell said in mid-December.

Habitat is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on six residential lots it 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 2018, and several friends and family members have been helping donate volunteer hours to count toward each household’s “sweat equity” over the summer and fall. 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. 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.

So much work and time were invested in the goal of building Habitat for Humanity homes in the Town of Lyons. It’s almost hard to believe the homes will be complete in 2019. Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes since the September 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. But Habitat for Humanity did not give up on the Town of Lyons. 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.

More volunteer labor and donations are needed going into the new year. Although Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley has some federal disaster recovery funding, there is still a gap in the costs of building these homes that fund-raising and donations must fill. As Lovell explained in late fall, “We have had great support from the community, business, and the federal government in funding the bulk of this $1.1 million endeavor, and we are in the process of raising the last $200,000 needed to complete the build.” Individuals can donate online at www.coloradogives.org/rebuildlyons or send a check to Habitat for Humanity at PO Box 333, Longmont, CO 80502-0333.

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.

Churches or businesses that would like to volunteer or financially support Habitat’s work can contact Rebecca Shannon at rshannon @stvrainhabitat.org or 303-682-2485 extension 102. 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 generous Lyons Lions Club and its youth chapter, “the Lyons Leos,” joined together in May 2018 for an Adopt-a-Day sponsorship at the Lyons construction site, and there is room for more big-hearted businesses or organizations to do the same.

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, go to stvrainhabitat.org, where you can also read the 30th Anniversary Impact Report.

 

This column is a commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

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Home sharing program creates low-cost rentals in Larimer County

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Published in the December 13, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Home sharing program creates low-cost rentals in Larimer County

by Amy Reinholds

In the first six months of its new HomeShare program, the Larimer County nonprofit Neighbor to Neighbor has matched five pairs of homeowners aged 55 and older (called “HomeProviders”) and renters (called “HomeSeekers”) who are looking for an affordable housemate situation.

Debbie Mayer, coordinator for the HomeShare program, said that the program began taking applications in April, and the first match of housemates was completed in June. At the end of November, she said there are ten applications for both HomeProviders and HomeSeekers waiting to be interviewed. So far, a total of 24 HomeProviders and 44 HomeSeekers have been interviewed for the program.

The HomeShare program grew out of a discussion about the need for low-cost rentals in Larimer County, and the preferences for baby boomers and older homeowners to age in place. The Larimer County Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities approached Neighbor to Neighbor with the idea, based on other communities in the U.S. that had similar programs.

Neighbor to Neighbor is a non-profit in Fort Collins and Loveland that started in 1970 when a group of neighbors came together to help a neighbor avoid losing a home. Today, Neighbor to Neighbor provides a wide range of services from homelessness prevention through rent assistance, to housing search programs, and home buyer education. Neighbor to Neighbor is also an affordable housing provider with 132 rental homes in Fort Collins and Loveland.

The HomeShare program is based on the simple idea of two or more people sharing a home for mutual benefit, Mayer explained. A person offers a private bedroom and shared common space in exchange for low-cost rent, help around the home, or a combination of the two. Neighbor to Neighbor facilitates the HomeShare program by providing a housing counselor to help match HomeProvider participants with HomeSeeker participants with compatable lifestyles. The Neighbor to Neighbor housing counselor also helps create the lease and living agreement for both parties.

The matching process takes some time to find the right housemates. HomeShare helps arrange a trial period option “for people to test the waters,” Mayer said. For as long as two weeks, a potential tenant might move in temporarily with a few belongings, to see if the housing situation works well for both parties. The HomeProvider has the option to charge a daily rate during the trial period. If that works, they sit down to discuss the particulars of shared living, which are drafted into a living agreement including terms and conditions. No two homesharing arrangements are alike, Mayer said. Each is tailored to the unique needs and interests of the people involved. She said the first match in the program started out with a 3-month lease and then switched to month-to-month.

Most of the HomeProviders rent a private bedroom and bathroom, and some also include another room such as a sitting room or living room space. Often the empty nesters rent a furnished room, such as a former guest room, which is helpful for many HomeSeekers who don’t have a lot of furniture. Most of the situations include sharing a kitchen. The average monthly rent is about $600, Mayer estimated. Some monthly rents are as low as $300 and some as high as $750, and some include discounts for housemates who agree to completing regular tasks and chores such as walking dogs or preparing meals.

“Based on what the participants tell me, house sharing is mutually beneficial if there is give and take with both parties,” Mayer said. Conversations to match housemates include talking about schedules, whether people are early risers, or stay up late, and discussing noise, and amount of time spent in the shared part of the house or apart.

The advantages can be great for both the older HomeProviders and the housemates who rent from them, Mayer said. “The HomeSeeker has the benefit of an affordable living situation, and the HomeProvider has the benefit of companionship.”

Mayer described HomeProviders who had expressed concerns about safety and the insecurity of living alone but found HomeShare to be a solution for those fears. Even simple tasks like taking out the trash every week, not even part of the formal living arrangements, has made a profound difference to some HomeProviders. Mayer said she has seen the significant difference that HomeShare brings to a sense of well being, security, and health for both parties.

“Also, to help with isolation, just having someone to give rides to the grocery store, or to church, makes a big difference,” Mayer said. HomeProviders are not specifically asking for driving help, she said, because most still drive themselves, but it’s the companionship that they value.

Mayer said one of the main challenges in matching people is matching the right cost. “HomeProviders are setting rents that work for them, and HomeSeekers need low rents,” she said.

Another challenge is pets. Often HomeProviders have pets, and sometimes the HomeSeekers do, too, which is an added dimension to making a match that works well for both parties.

And for some HomeSeekers who don’t have transportation, Mayer works to find them homeshare opportunities that are near public transit in Fort Collins and Loveland. A few of the aging HomeProviders are looking for people who might be able to help by driving, although Mayer said right now that is not a common request as a task for discounted rent.

Even homeowners in the south end of Larimer County near Lyons can participate in the program if they are age 55 and older and have a space they want to rent out in their homes. For more information, contact www.n2n.org/rental-options/homeshare. These HomeProviders in Larimer County would be matched with HomeSeekers who live, work, or go to school in Larimer County. I’m interested in whether a Boulder County non-profit might be able to do something similar for people in Boulder County. Mayer said that Neighbor to Neighbor based their program on guidelines and training from the National Shared Housing Resource Center and a non-profit called HIP Housing in San Mateo, CA.

There are also for-profit companies that help seniors find housemates for a fee, such as Silvernest, which I wrote about this spring.

Homesharing programs run by nonprofits could be one piece in the puzzle that helps the Lyons community with a need for affordable rentals after Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes in the September 2013 flood. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost, 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.

This column is a commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

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Neighbors now have a say about large accessory buildings

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

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

Neighbors now have a say about large accessory buildings

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Board of Trustees voted on Dec. 3 to close a loophole that allowed residential property owners to build large accessory buildings like two-story garages “by right,” without conditional-use reviews that give neighbors a chance to comment.

Now, if your Lyons neighbor plans to build a garage or other accessory building that is two stories or bigger, or has sewer or water connections to it, you will be notified and have the opportunity to give your input to town decision-makers. This change in town code requires that neighbors are notified and public hearings scheduled for the public to give comments about the proposed building. The conditional use is now required for all large accessory units, regardless of whether the owners currently intend them to be dwelling units that are rented out or not. Conditional use review public hearings are held before both the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Board of Trustees.

This change in town process for residential zones was prompted by concerns heard from neighbors about applicants bringing a 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 R-1 zoned lot. However, the town code had allowed that size of garage to be added to the property. The PCDC, and Town Planner Paul Glasgow, had recommended that the town code change to allow neighbors of these accessory buildings to have a say in the use review. The PCDC passed the recommendation on Nov. 12 to change Town of Lyons code.

The policy for building ADUs (small carriage houses or mother-in-law apartments) on 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. Research that town staff gave Lyons Board of Trustees in August found approximately 55 non-compliant ADUs in the Town of Lyons (including allowed historically non-compliant ADUs built before some areas had town zoning). And since May 2017, conditional use reviews were completed and approved under the new ADU policy for five new detached ADU buildings. That’s a total of 60 current ADUs in town limits.

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.

“We’ve seen [previous town code that allowed large garage buildings by right] taken advantage of at least twice,” Trustee Mark Browning said. He said a conditional use-review requires “proper notice to neighbors to they have a chance to appear before the PCDC and the board of trustees. We had neighbors coming to us saying, ‘We should have been notified.’”

Trustees schedule workshop, postpone decision on tiny homes on wheels RVs as ADUs

Another issue related to ADUs also came before the trustees on first reading on Dec. 3. The trustees voted to pass at first reading an ordinance that would allow homeowners to bring in tiny homes on wheels (registered as RVs) as ADUs. But instead of keeping the scheduled second reading and public hearing for a final vote on Dec. 17, the trustees scheduled a workshop to discuss the proposed ordinance further. After the Dec. 17 workshop, they will have the option to “continue” or postpone the second reading and public hearing until a later meeting, if they needed more information or changes from town staff. [Trustee Mark Browning has since reported that he expects the public hearing will be Jan. 7, 2019.]

On Nov. 26, four members of the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) approved recommending that the Town of Lyons Board of Trustees adopt an ordinance amending town code to allow tiny homes on wheels as accessory dwelling units in town residential zones.

This proposed change to the ADU ordinance would allow homeowners in residential neighborhoods in the Town of Lyons to bring in tiny homes on wheels, built off-site, treating them the same as the ADUs that are built on site. The term “tiny homes on wheels” or sometimes just “tiny homes” describes a trend that started in the early 2000s of small constructed homes that are on built on a trailer frame with axles and wheels, registered like RVs. I’ve heard people describe tiny homes as “gentrified RVs.” Tiny homes on wheels don’t fit into either the International Building Code (IRC) that building inspection companies use or the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards for manufactured housing (mobile homes). Instead of requiring the IRC, the proposed changes to the Town of Lyons code would allow tiny homes on wheels that are built according to recreational vehicle (RV) standards like American National Standards Institute Park Model Recreational Vehicle Standard 119.5, National Electrical Code Standards 551 and 552, and National Fire Protection Association Standard 1192.

Under the proposed ordinance change, the Town of Lyons would require tiny homes on wheels, like all ADUs, to be attached to all Town of Lyons utilities. The tiny homes on wheels would be required to be anchored and secured and attached to all utilities. Also, occupancy of these tiny homes on wheels are limited to a maximum of four people, based on direction of the trustees to prevent large families or groups of singles jammed into small homes. All the other same requirements for ADUs would apply, including renting to long-term tenants (at least month to month) instead of to short-term tourists.

The proposed additions to town code state that no more than 10 tiny homes on wheels can be used as ADUs within Lyons town limits. After 10 are approved, the Lyons Board of Trustees “can review the effects of tiny homes on Lyons’s affordable housing inventory and may, in its discretion, increase the total allowable number of tiny homes.”

It is not clear what “the effects of tiny homes on Lyons’s affordable housing inventory” means. Will there be data that measures affordability of these market-rate homes? Will it only be affordable to the property owners, or will it be affordable to people struggling to find places to rent?

“We have heard it makes the property that someone owns affordable (to them),” Glasgow said to the PCDC commissioners when they voted on Nov. 26 to recommend the current proposal. And PCDC chair Gregg Oetting said that the PCDC heard from “people who were angling for retirement and this is how they were going to supplement it.”

The PCDC and the trustees have been discussing whether tiny homes on wheels would work as ADUs in the Town of Lyons for more than a year. At a Feb. 26 PCDC meeting, there was not consensus among the PCDC commissioners on how adding tiny homes on wheels as ADUs would help homeowners save money, and therefore encourage more ADUs as rentals in town. At a March 5 Board of Trustees meeting, town staff, PCDC commissioners, and trustees weren’t sure if tiny homes on wheels as ADUs would really be a lower-cost option for rentals. “Are we really creating a cheaper housing option? That’s not clear,” Glasgow said at that meeting.

ADUs on 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 ADUs is 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 families 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.

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. (Ironically, the lodging at the former Riverbend Mobile Home Park is in tiny homes on wheels RVs.)

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.

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Will allowing tiny homes on wheels as ADUs cut costs and lower rents?

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Published in the Nov. 29, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Will allowing tiny homes on wheels as ADUs cut costs and lower rents?

by Amy Reinholds

Under the guise of “increasing affordable housing in Lyons,” a market-rate proposal that hasn’t been proven as a viable way to provide more lower cost rentals in town is on its way to a final step with the Lyons Board of Trustees on Dec. 17. [Note, this vote will probably be postponed until January, but a workshop to discuss the issue is scheduled for Dec. 17. See Neighbors now have a say about large accessory buildings.]

On Nov. 26, four members of the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) approved recommending that the Town of Lyons Board of Trustees adopt an ordinance amending town code to allow tiny homes on wheels as accessory dwelling units in town residential zones. Commissioners Roger Flynn, Doug Miller, Neil Sullivan, and Gregg Oetting all voted in favor of the resolution. Commissioners Clay Dusel, David Neufield, and Joshua Schnabel were absent from the meeting.

The existing Lyons accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinance already allows small mother-in-law apartments or carriage houses to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners $20,000-$40,000 in construction costs) in residential zones. You can read the ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units . Applicants must go through a conditional use review process, including a public hearing for their immediate neighbors and the general public to comment. 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. The 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.

This new change to the ADU ordinance would allow tiny homes on wheels, built off-site, treating them the same as the ADUs that are built on site. The term “tiny homes on wheels” or sometimes just “tiny homes” describes a trend that started in the early 2000s of small constructed homes that are on built on a trailer frame with axles and wheels, registered like RVs. I’ve heard people describe tiny homes as “gentrified RVs.” Tiny homes on wheels don’t fit into either the International Building Code (IRC) that building inspection companies use or the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards for manufactured housing (mobile homes). Instead of requiring the IRC, the changed ordinance for the Town of Lyons would allow tiny homes on wheels that are built according to recreational vehicle (RV) standards like American National Standards Institute Park Model Recreational Vehicle Standard 119.5, National Electrical Code Standards 551 and 552, and National Fire Protection Association Standard 1192.

Under the proposed ordinance change, the Town of Lyons would require tiny homes on wheels, like all ADUs, to be attached to all Town of Lyons utilities. The tiny homes on wheels would be required to be anchored and secured and attached to all utilities. Also, occupancy of these tiny homes on wheels are limited to a maximum of four people, based on direction of the trustees to prevent large families or groups of singles jammed into small homes. All the other same requirements for ADUs would apply, including renting to long-term tenants (at least month to month) instead of to short-term tourists.

The additions to town code state that no more than 10 tiny homes on wheels can be used as ADUs within Lyons town limits. After 10 are approved, the Lyons Board of Trustees “can review the effects of tiny homes on Lyons’s affordable housing inventory and may, in its discretion, increase the total allowable number of tiny homes.”

It is not clear what “the effects of tiny homes on Lyons’s affordable housing inventory” means. Will there be data that measures affordability of these market-rate homes? Will it only be affordable to the property owners, or will it be affordable to people struggling to find places to rent?

This proposed change to town code for market-rate ADUs does not keep rental rates low like the Summit proposal for Lyons Valley Park rentals would do. 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.

At the Nov. 26 PCDC meeting, Commissioner Flynn said “We are going with the assumption that smaller is cheaper,” and Commisioner Oetting said “It’s good old-fashioned capitalism that if you limit the supply, the rental prices will continue to rise.”

But the supply of ADUs aren’t limited with the current town code. Research that town staff reported to the Lyons Board of Trustees in August found approximately 55 non-compliant ADUs in the Town of Lyons (including allowed historically non-compliant ADUs built before some areas had town zoning). And since May 2017, conditional use reviews were completed and approved under the new ADU policy for five new detached ADU buildings. That’s a total of 60 ADUs.

To encourage ADUs, the Town of Lyons doesn’t need to add tiny homes on wheels as an allowed way to build them. At past meetings, it wasn’t even known if purchasing and paying to bring in a tiny home on wheels and connect it to town utilities would really cost a homeowner less than building a tiny home on site. Also, without any changes, current town code allows modular housing for ADUs, something that Trustee Barney Dreistadt has asked about at previous meetings. A homeowner can bring in a modular home constructed off-site for an ADU, as long as it fits in the size requirements (dependent on size of the main house, but no larger than 800 square feet). Modular homes, which arrive to the site in pieces and are constructed on residential lots, meet the IRC requirements that building inspection companies like Town of Lyons contracting company Charles Abbott Associates use.

At a Feb. 26 PCDC meeting, there was not consensus among the PCDC commissioners on how adding tiny homes on wheels as ADUs would help homeowners save money, and therefore encourage more ADUs as rentals in town. At a March 5 Board of Trustees meeting, town staff, PCDC commissioners, and trustees weren’t sure if tiny homes on wheels as ADUs would really be a lower-cost option for rentals. “Are we really creating a cheaper housing option? That’s not clear,” Town Planner Paul Glasgow said.

Trustee Dan Greenberg, who retired from the Board of Trustees in April, said “One of the reasons we tackled ADUs in the first place was for lower-cost rentals (although still market-rate). If we just end up with something that causes expensive rentals, it’s not meeting that goal.”

This week’s PCDC meeting had a majority of four of the seven commissioners present, and they agreed on a recommendation to add tiny homes on wheels. Commissioner Flynn asked Glasgow, “The town isn’t taking any statistics on ADUs and what is being charged?” Glasgow did not have data but as an anecdote said that a studio apartment “that was an illegal ADU” was renting for $1,000 a month. An anecdote I have is from a September community discussion at the Lyons Library about renting in Lyons: a woman mentioned that she found the rent for a new garage apartment being built under the Lyons ADU ordinance was $1500 a month, well above her budget.

“We have heard it makes the property that someone owns affordable (to them),” Glasgow said.

Oetting added that the PCDC heard from “people who were angling for retirement and this is how they were going to supplement it.”

That’s nice if this approach could help increase “affordability” for the property owners in our community, but what about affordability for the renters? Do we want our Town of Lyons code to only help people who already own property?

Back at the March workshop with the Board of Trustees, the PCDC also brought up where ADUs – and tiny home ADUs if included in the ordinance – will go in the Town of Lyons. They will not be in the subdivisions with homeowners associations that will restrict ADUs. Instead, they will be in the old town residential neighborhoods that don’t have homeowners associations. The PCDC commissioners, Oetting and previous Commissioner Mark Browning (before he was seated on the Board of Trustees) asked the trustees how much they wanted the people in those neighborhoods to take on the housing needs of the whole town with this new initiative.

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. (Ironically, that lodging at the former mobile home park is in tiny homes on wheels.)

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 Housing and Human Services 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.

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A few reasons to be thankful this year

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Published in the Nov. 22, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

A few reasons to be thankful this year

by Amy Reinholds

When this column is published, people will be celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and family and reflecting on what they are thankful for this year.

Even though global, national, and local news and social media can be negative and discouraging, good things are still happening. I am hopeful that if we connect and help where we are needed, we can affect the world in a positive way.

Here are some of the reasons I’m thankful this year:

1) The Lyons flood is more than 5 years behind us. Our town’s experience can assist other communities that are going through the horrifying and devastating time after a natural disaster. To help, we can donate to groups that we had personal experience with with Lyons, such as the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and Team Rubicon. Today, I am especially thankful to the first responders who are helping with the Northern California wildfires. To help the community directly affected by the Camp Fire, you can donate to the North Valley Community Foundation in Chico, CA at www.nvcf.org.

2) Six families from our community who went through a wide range of challenges due to the 2013 flood, including losing stable, affordable housing, will be purchasing Habitat for Humanity homes in Lyons! I am thankful for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley and all the generous community members who have volunteered their time and money toward constructing these three duplex buildings at 112 Park Street. Some families could be moving in during the early part of the new year. You can donate to the Lyons construction at www.coloradogives.org/rebuildlyons. To volunteer, no specific experience is needed, and training is on the job for each of the 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. volunteer shifts. You can sign up at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction.

3) Our community might be able to provide 40 affordable rental homes, funded with federal disaster recovery and low-income housing tax credit programs. Summit Housing Group plans to purchase of the land in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision to build 11 single family homes and 29 homes in duplex and triplex buildings – all rental homes affordable for people who earn 60 percent of the area median or less. I am thankful for the state and county groups that set aside $4 million of federal disaster recovery funds for affordable housing in Lyons, even after a March 2015 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. Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes, but with both the 40 affordable rentals, and the six Habitat for Humanity homes, the number of new homes to make up for that deficit would be up to 46. To learn more about how a rental and application process would work, see the property management website for Summit buildings at www.leasehighland.com. Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., specializes in developing and managing low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado.

4) Finally, I am thankful for the volunteer spirit in the Lyons community, from people who put together benefits for friends facing health issues, to those who volunteer with Lyons Volunteers, the Weed Posse, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, and town boards and commissions. I want to personally thank all the volunteer members of the Lyons Housing and Human Services Commission. Our community includes volunteers who donate time at the Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund food pantry, work with children in the schools, and serve hot meals for elders, just to name a few of the ways they contribute. With these volunteer values in Lyons, we can see promise for an improved future.

 

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 Housing and Human Services 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.

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Neighborhood notification for large accessory buildings in residential zones

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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

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