U.S. Rep Joe Neguse’s thoughts on affordable housing

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Published in the August 15, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


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

U.S. Rep Joe Neguse’s thoughts on affordable housing

by Amy Reinholds

According to Rep. Joe Neguse, who held a town hall meeting in Lyons on Aug. 12, constituents all across his U.S. Congressional District 2 bring up concerns about being able to afford to live in their communities.

“Affordable housing is a huge concern,” Neguse said at a table in the back event space at the Stone Cup Cafe. “It comes up at almost every town hall.”

Meeting about 20-30 area residents and business owners, Neguse also heard questions and concerns about immigration policy – including how it affects local stone quarries – gun control, and corruption and accountability in Washington, D.C.

Based on input from Boulder and Larimer County housing authorities, Neguse said he is working on a bill to extend the minimum required number of years that rental homes funded by the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program must remain affordable to low-income households before the property owners are allowed to convert them to market rate rentals. The current proposal is to bump it up to 30 years.

He said he and his staff look for “any levers to pull at the federal level” to support affordable housing options. Some of the work, he said, is writing letters for grant purposes to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for grant opportunities, for communities including Gilpin County and Estes Park.

Neguse gave an example an interesting affordable housing partnership in Summit County that involved some land trades with the Town of Frisco, Summit County, and the U.S. Forest Service, in order to find much needed land to build affordable housing for the local workforce.

He also said he has been talking to the mayor of the Town of Lyons about affordable housing. In future columns, I will follow up on some of Neguse’s affordable housing actions, providing more details.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 destroyed homes in 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. However, $4 million of federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, and the State Housing Board voted in February to approve Summit Housing Group’s application for those funds for building 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Until Summit’s proposal, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued, but nothing got very far in the process.

The only post-flood, deed-restricted, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112, 114, and 116 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. The first two duplexes are now complete, and more volunteer help is needed to finish the final building. At www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction, after clicking FLOOD REBUILD-LYONS, volunteers can review all days with openings and sign up for one or more days. Help is most needed on weekdays. For any questions, or if you have a local group that wants to volunteer together, contact Rebecca Shannon at 303-682-2485. Shannon said Habitat can accommodate groups of up to 25 people with advance warning. She recommends scheduling groups for the month of September now.

 

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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A success story from Buena Vista

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Published in the August 8, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


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

A success story from Buena Vista

by Amy Reinholds

The Colorado Municipal League (CML) annual conference earlier in the summer was attended by representatives from the Town of Lyons, including staff and elected officials. One of the affordable housing topics that was listed on the agenda gave insight to how 48 affordable rental homes were built in the Town of Buena Vista, a town of about 2,800.

Wondering how this project came about in a town more remote than Lyons, with about 800 more residents, I reached out to Mark Doering, Buena Vista principal planner. He told me that the Collegiate Commons project added 48 new affordable rental housing homes in two buildings, each three stories. The tenants earn 30-60 percent of the area median income. He said about 100 people live there today, about 40 of them kids.

It was a long road. The timeline from application to Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) started in April 2016, and the final tenants moved in by April 2019. But the idea started much earlier, with some disappointments. Doering said that the town had previously applied for LIHTC funding in 2015, but had feedback that the site wouldn’t work. “So we had to put together a more complicated proposal for the land,” he said.

For everything to align, the project included a land swap of park land with the local school district, a new a baseball field for the school that was funded with help from grants, a narrow approval of that land swap from voters in a 2017 municipal election with low voter turn-out, and multiple votes from school district and town elected officials. Buena Vista doesn’t have its own housing authority but partnered with an affordable housing developer, Urban, Inc.The town still owns the land with a 75-year lease, Doering said, and the developer owns the improvements on the land.

The Collegiate Commons project won the competative, so-called “9 percent” LIHTC in September 2016. There were 43 applications total, and the Buena Vista project was one of about 11 that were awarded the funding.

Just this year the town finished the process of LIHTC loans and financing steps.

In sharing information with other communities, Doering highlights what went well and allowed this project to succeed: political will, the various partnerships, and the adaptability of the project.

The lessons learned from this project that he compiled for the presentation at the CML conference included the importance of local involvement, transparency, and “don’t minimize the impacts to your partners.” Other important lessons included having multiple back-up plans “(B, C, and D)”. Warnings to keep in mind are “Not anyone can do LIHTC” and that the tax credit-required rental process takes time for vetting renters’ applications.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 destroyed homes in 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. However, $4 million of federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, and the State Housing Board voted in February to approve Summit Housing Group’s application for those funds for building 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Until Summit’s proposal, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued, but nothing got very far in the process.

The only post-flood, deed-restricted, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112, 114, and 116 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. Two duplexes are now completed and, and more volunteer help is needed to finish the third building. 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. Help is most needed on weekdays. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, at 303-682-2485.

There are 26 existing 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.

 

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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Habitat for Humanity celebrates second duplex building dedication; more volunteers needed for the third

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Published in the August 1, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


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

Habitat for Humanity celebrates second duplex building dedication; more volunteers needed for the third

by Amy Reinholds

Habitat for Humanity scheduled a celebration and home dedication at the end of July for the completion of the second duplex building at 2nd and Park Streets. The first duplex at 112 Park Street was completed in April. These homes are the first new permanently affordable housing constructed after more than five years of determination from the community and Habitat for Humanity after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons.

Since January 2018, volunteers – both from Lyons and communities across the region – have been working weekends and weekdays on constructing three duplex buildings at 112, 114, and 116 Park Street. Applicants were selected to purchase each of the six homes by April 2018, and the process to make Habitat for Humanity homes a reality in Lyons started at least three years before that.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes since the September 2013 flood (homes not rebuilt either because of government buy-out programs that preserve the land as open space or because of the rezoning of one of the former mobile home parks to commercial use as an event and lodging venue). 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 combined total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. But Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on the Town of Lyons, continuing the discussion about possible available land in Lyons, and eventually purchasing the land at 2nd and Park from Craig Ferguson and his Planet Bluegrass partners in the fall of 2016.

The third and final duplex (the building in the middle) is still in progress. The roof was just finished, and the next big tasks include exterior work and also insulation and drywall interior work.  More volunteer help is greatly needed to complete it so the selected applicants can close on purchasing their homes and move in.

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The dedication ceremony for the second Habitat for Humanity duplex at 2nd and Park Streets in Lyons was July 31, 2019.

In the summer of 2018, the Lyons Lions Club and its youth chapter, “the Lyons Leos,” joined together for an Adopt-a-Day sponsorship at the Lyons construction site. There is a need for more big-hearted businesses or organizations to do the same thing this summer and fall. The Adopt-a-Day sponsorship is an opportunity for groups or businesses to both volunteer on the construction site and raise funds. 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.

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. At www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction, after clicking FLOOD REBUILD-LYONS, volunteers can sign up for any of the volunteer shifts when they are available.  For any questions, or if you have a local group that wants to volunteer together, contact Rebecca Shannon at 303-682-2485. Shannon said Habitat can accommodate groups of up to 25 people with advance warning. She recommends scheduling groups for the month of September now.

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 the homeowners in Lyons, depending on income and household size. Applicants to purchase all six of the Lyons homes were selected by April 2018, and several friends and family members helped donate volunteer hours over the past year or more 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. The 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.

 

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. 

Housing + transportation should not exceed 45% of monthly income

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Published in the July 25, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


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

Housing + transportation should not exceed 45% of monthly income

by Amy Reinholds

My column usually focuses solely on affordable housing, but this week I want to share a connection with affordability of where people live and their transportation costs.

The Boulder County transportation department includes a “Mobility for All” program. At a recent meeting, I picked up a sticker that has a picture of a house, a plus sign, and a picture of a bus and the words “should not exceed 45 percent of monthly income.” Within the affordable housing discussion, people’s housing costs are said to be “affordable” if they are 30 percent or less of their monthly income. This additional way of looking at overall affordability in a region like Boulder County means that both these kinds of expenses – housing and transportation – should only be 15 percent more of someone’s monthly costs – a total of 45 percent.

You can learn more about Boulder County Mobility for All at www.bouldercounty.org/transportation/multimodal/mobilityforall, which includes research and several programs, addressing a wide range of issues including the need for transportation for people who can’t afford cars or who don’t drive because of disabilities or age. One exciting announcement is that representatives from Lyons are participating in a working group that is shaping a new volunteer driver program for mountain communities in Boulder County.

For several years, the Town of Lyons volunteer advisory board that I serve on, the Lyons Housing and Human Services Commission, has been looking for opportunities to improve transportation options for people who live in the 80540 area. It can be very discouraging, with limited RTD bus service and not many other user-friendly transportation options for the aging population.

That’s why our commission was glad to hear that Boulder County Mobility for All knew that other mountain towns had similar issues – and they got a grant to do something about it. The grant covers creating a business plan for a technology-based volunteer driver program for mountain communities and curriculum development to help older adults and people with disabilities overcome technology barriers (for example, using computers and smart phones) to access transportation services like including ride sharing apps.

The Mobility for All team is holding monthly focus group meetings throughout the rest of 2019 to develop a volunteer driver program in the mountain communities of Allenspark, Gold Hill, Jamestown, Lyons, Nederland, and Ward. Lyons is sending representatives from our community who would use a volunteer driver program to get rides, as well as people who work or volunteer with the Town of Lyons or human services agencies like the Lyons Emergency & Assistance Fund (LEAF). The monthly meetings rotate among the participating mountain communities. Everyone in Lyons community is welcome to attend the meeting when it comes to Lyons, probably in November of this year. We will spread the word when the meeting is scheduled.

If you want to learn more about how you can get involved, reach out to me, the acting chair of the Lyons Housing & Human Services Commission, or to any of the other volunteer commissioners, listed at www.townoflyons.com/197/Housing-Human-Services-Commission. When you go to that page, you will also see that we have one open seat for a volunteer commissioner. We would love to have you if you are called to that avenue of participating in our community. Our meetings are the second Tuesday of every month, from 3:30-5pm at Lyons Town Hall.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 destroyed homes in 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. However, $4 million of federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, and the State Housing Board voted in February to approve Summit Housing Group’s application for those funds for building 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Until Summit’s proposal, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued, but nothing got very far in the process.

The only post-flood, deed-restricted, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112, 114, and 116 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. The first duplex was completed in April 2019, and more volunteer help is needed to finish the other buldings. 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. Help is most needed on weekdays. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, at 303-682-2485.

There are 26 existing 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.

 

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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Minor amendments to Habitat for Humanity PUD plan pass the Lyons Planning Commission

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Published in the July 18, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


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

Amended Habitat for Humanity PUD plan passes Planning Commission

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) passed a resolution on July 11, recommending that the town’s Board of Trustees approve an amended PUD Development Plan for 112, 114, and 116 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is completing three duplex buildings. The amendments were minor: the locations of the porches for the six homes and the location of the 4th bedrooms in the two larger homes in the middle duplex changed slightly.

There was no public comment and not much discussion from the PCDC commissioners other than to say that they supported these permanently affordable homes in Lyons. They also recommended that adopting language in the PUD that would allow town administrative approval for any other small future changes if needed. That way Habitat for Humanity staff won’t have to come back for a formal vote again before both the PCDC and the Trustees for any more minor modifications. The first duplex at 112 Park Street was completed in April, and one of the homes in the western-most duplex was completed at the end of last month. These homes are the first new permanently affordable housing constructed after more than five years of determination from the community and Habitat for Humanity after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons.

The other three homes are finishing up this summer. More volunteer help – especially on weekdays – is still needed to complete the homes so the selected applicants can close on purchasing their homes and move in. 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. At www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction, after clicking FLOOD REBUILD-LYONS, volunteers can sign up for any of the volunteer shifts when they are available. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon at 303-682-2485.

These homes are the first new permanently affordable housing constructed after more than five years of determination from the community and Habitat for Humanity after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons.

At the July 11 PCDC meeting, Stephen Scott, construction director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, explained that the amended plan made the 4th bedrooms in the middle, larger, duplex accessible. Preparing for future homeowners with disabilities or to age in place meant moving those bedrooms to the first floor, and building accessible ramps in the part of the property in the floodplain required longer ramps. He also said that modifications in the porch locations for all six homes both met firewall requirements to separate by at least 10 feet and even improved the community aspect of the buildings.

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 Lyons homes were selected by April 2018, and several friends and family members helped donate volunteer hours over the past year 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. The 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.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes since the September 2013 flood (homes not rebuilt either because of government buy-out programs that preserve the land as open space or because of the rezoning of one of the former mobile home parks to commercial use as an event and lodging venue). 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 of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on the Town of Lyons, continuing the discussion with possible available land in Lyons, and eventually purchasing the land at 2nd and Park from Craig Ferguson and his Planet Bluegrass partners in the fall of 2016.

This permanently affordable home-ownership model for six homes is a success for Lyons. But permanently affordable rentals are also needed to make up for homes that were lost in the flood. A few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued after the 2015 proposal failed, but nothing got very far in the process. A total of $4 million in federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons. In February of this year, the State Housing Board approved an application from Summit Housing Group to use the $4 million for a proposal to build 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Because federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits are also planned for funding those total 40 proposed homes, all would be required to be rented to households that earn 60 percent or less of the area median income.

If these rental homes come to fruition, Lyons will finally have a total of 46 new affordable homes post-flood. The town would be about half way to adding back homes that were not rebuilt after the 2013 flood.

 

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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NIBMYs, YIMBYs, and SHIMBYs

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Published in the July 11, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


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

NIBMYs, YIMBYs, and SHIMBYs

by Amy Reinholds

The term “Not In My Back Yard,” or NIMBY, is thrown around in discussions about affordable housing, whether in Lyons, as our town has been trying to replace housing stock lost in the 2013 flood, or in large cities where real estate and rental prices are soaring.

NIMBY is understood as a dirty word that refers to citizens, usually with political influence or power, who don’t want something they deem as undesirable in their backyards. I think it also implies a hypocrisy that they think it’s OK in someone else’s backyard. What they don’t want in their neighborhoods varies. It could be government-subsidized affordable housing for people with low incomes, or extraction industry facilities owned by large, private corporations.

Organizations calling themselves YIMBY, or “Yes In My Back Yard,” have sprung up in recent years in the name of affordable housing. I started following some of these groups, liking the positive word “Yes” in the name. However, many of the policies and goals focus on increasing density as a solution across neighborhoods in cities, without necessarily requiring limitations for permanent affordability.

YIMBY groups oppose exclusionary zoning, municipal zoning ordinances that exclude certain types of land uses from a county, town, or city. Reading through en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exclusionary_zoning, I agree that our country has some ugly history of how zoning ordinances were used to keep immigrants and people of color out of white, wealthy, and powerful communities. But I don’t think doing away with all residential zoning (or all single-family home zoning) today is the answer for affordable housing and a caring society.

It’s paradoxical to me that many young renters in politically liberal cities, who wouldn’t align with Republicans on other issues, are buying into a trickle-down economic approach to so-called affordable housing. They think that if municipalities remove zoning restrictions and help market-rate developers build more high-density buildings in residential neighborhoods, it will automatically provide more low-cost rentals. Simple supply and demand, right?

But unless limitations are added to these new housing developments, allowing more density or incentives to for-profit developers would only result in lower costs for the first tenant or purchaser, not to the ones that follow. These market-rate actions might help the developers save money, but they won’t help achieve long-lasting affordable housing as the real-estate market continues to rise. We have the same issue with the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance in Lyons. Homeowners who can build apartments in their garage or a separate building (with a generous discount in utility connection costs) aren’t limited in how much they can charge for rent. As rental rates go up, so will the rents for these apartments.

That’s why I want to introduce a new acronym: SHIMBY, or “Subsidized Housing In My Back Yard.” Those of us who live near Bloomfield Place by the Stone Cup cafe, Walter Self Senior Housing by the post office, or Mountain Gate on 2nd Ave, already have tax-payer-subsidized affordable housing in our backyards. All are operated by the Boulder County Housing Authority.

Government or tax-payer-subsidized affordable housing, sometimes referred to as “permanent affordable housing” comes with requirements such as renting to households with specific low monthly incomes, or establishing deed restrictions for future sales prices. For example, any developer that uses the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits program as part of funding new residential buildings must rent to households with incomes of 60 percent of the area median income or less.

As I researched the YIMBY movement and some of its challenges, I noticed that others are taking a similar approach to my SHIMBY suggestion. The term some groups in large cities use is PHIMBY or “Public Housing in My Back Yard.” According to reporting from radio station KQED, this idea focuses on investing in public and municipal-run housing programs. The article at www.kqed.org/news/11731580/forget-yimby-vs-nimby-could-phimbys-solve-the-housing-crisis also brings up concerns that a market-rate YIMBY approach could also speed up gentrification in some neighborhoods and push out long-time, low-income residents.

Sorting through all those acronyms, I choose SHIMBY as a direction to pursue in our quest for affordable housing here in Lyons.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 destroyed homes in 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. However, $4 million of federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, and the State Housing Board voted in February to approve Summit Housing Group’s application for those funds for building 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Until Summit’s proposal, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued, but nothing got very far in the process.

The only post-flood, deed-restricted, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112, 114, and 116 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. The first duplex was completed in April 2019, and more volunteer help is needed to finish the other buldings. 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. Help is most needed on weekdays. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, at 303-682-2485.

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An update on licensed short-term vacation rentals in Lyons

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Published in the July 4, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


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

An update on licensed short-term vacation rentals

by Amy Reinholds

On the July 4 holiday week, many people are thinking about traveling and tourism. This week’s deadline was before the July 1 Board of Trustees meeting, but agenda materials included information on short-term vacation rentals in the Town of Lyons.

According to the written Administrative Report document in the July 1 Board of Trustees meeting agenda, there are 17 residential properties in town limits in 2019 that have Town of Lyons Short-term Rental Licenses already issued or currently processing.

There is a map on the Town of Lyons website that shows the location of all these licensed properties: townoflyonsgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=47c06c204fa541e7b2a4af5e258fefc5.

The report document also states that there are three non-compliant short-term vacation rentals in residential zones, one with a denied application, one that is a new listing on a commercial lodging website, and one that is listed as having “received a second administrative citation ($500).”

According to that same report, a status of the Town of Lyons lodging occupation fees ($2 per night) shows that five forms were not received by a March 20 deadline for the previous month’s fee. However, it states that nine forms were received before April 20.

Owning a home on a residential lot in the Town of Lyons, whether purchased recently, years or decades ago, or inherited from a family member, does not come with the automatic allowance to run a lodging business in that home and make money by renting it out by the night to tourists.

Until a Short-term Rental ordinance was added to the Town of Lyons municipal code at the start of 2018, the only way for owners of residential-zoned properties (R-1 and R-2) in town to legally rent space in their homes for short-term, nightly or weekly periods of time (including on websites like AirBnb and VRBO) was to apply for a conditional use review to run a Bed and Breakfast business. The Bed and Breakfast conditional use review process required several steps including public hearings before the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission and the Lyons Board of Trustees. No homeowners ever applied for the Bed and Breakfast conditional use reviews for R-1 and R-2 properties. (Bed and breakfast businesses with six or fewer units are allowed by right — without the conditional use reviews — on A-1, A-2, and Estate zoned land, if the homeowners have a business license and the rented units are in the main house.)

The new process makes it much easier for homeowners on R-1 and R-2 properties, who didn’t have a “use by right” before, to rent out rooms to vacationers in the homes where they live. Now all a residential homeowner must do is complete a Town of Lyons Short-term Rental Application, with a new application fee, and pay an annual license fee for a Town of Lyons Short-term Rental License. Residential homeowners can apply at www.townoflyons.com/ShortTermRentals.

The Lyons Short-term Rental Ordinance prohibits short-term rentals in campers or RVs, in other non-compliant structures like sheds, in carriage houses or ADUs that are covered by the www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units ordinance, and in homes that the property owners do not use as their principal residence. The homeowners who are renting out rooms to tourists must obtain a Colorado sales tax license and collect, report, and pay sales tax, or they can contract with a company like AirBnb to collect, report, and pay sales tax on their behalf. They also must pay a $2 per night Town of Lyons occupancy fee.

Compliance to the short-term vacation rental policy is important because it helps keep the stock of residential rentals for long-term renters who work in town and are looking for lower-cost options in smaller spaces, like roommate situations or accessory dwelling units. If space that could go to someone struggling to find a place to rent instead goes to tourists, our town stock of residential rentals goes down, increasing demand, and even increasing rental prices.

I see this concern about reduced long-term rentals as very real in small tourist towns in Colorado like Lyons, Salida, or Crested Butte, or in large cities like Denver, San Francisco, and Vancouver. Recently, a study from McGill University’s School of Urban Planning, found that Airbnb took 31,000 homes and apartments out of Canada’s long-term rental market in the past year. The study used a comprehensive dataset of all Airbnb activity in Canada from September 2016 to December 2018, compiled by the consulting firm AirDNA, and based on daily “scrapes” of Airbnb’s public website. You can read the entire study at http://upgo.lab.mcgill.ca/2019/06/20/short-term-rentals-in-canada-paper/.

“While current Airbnb activity is concentrated in major cities, active listings, total revenue, hosts with multiple listings, and frequently rented entire-home listings are all growing at substantially higher rates in small towns and rural areas,” according to the summary of the study.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 destroyed homes in 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. However, $4 million of federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, and the State Housing Board voted in February to approve Summit Housing Group’s application for those funds for building 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Until Summit’s proposal, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued, but nothing got very far in the process.

The only post-flood, deed-restricted, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112, 114, and 116 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. The first duplex was completed in April 2019, and more volunteer help is needed to finish the other buildings. 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. Help is most needed on weekdays. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, at 303-682-2485.

 

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 Lyons Comprehensive Plan

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Published in the June 27, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


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

The Lyons Comprehensive Plan

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Comprehensive Plan (the overall planning document for the Town of Lyons), was last updated in 2010, although there have been two components added since the 2013 flood: The Lyons Recovery Action Plan in 2014 and the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan in 2016. In 2020, the town will update the Comprehensive Plan.

Town Planner Paul Glasgow’s agenda item at the June 24 meeting of Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC), described the Comprehensive Plan as “a vision for the future.”

“These documents were developed at different times and have some overlap,” he explained in the introduction to the agenda item. “As the demographics continued to change, it is once again time to update the comprehensive plan. The question is how to do this.”

A Comprehensive Plan is intended to capture broad community input about goals for land use, growth, housing, transportation, economic development, natural resources, and other issues, gathered over a year of community workshops, surveys, and public meetings. The 2010 Lyons Comprehensive Plan is available at www.townoflyons.com/DocumentCenter/View/155/2010-Comprehensive-Plan-PDF. The Lyons Recovery Action Plan component (added in 2014) is available at www.townoflyons.com/documentcenter/view/388, and the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan (added in 2016) is available at www.townoflyons.com/DocumentCenter/View/948/LPPA-Master-Plan-Final.

Before the Town of Lyons creates a request for proposals for a firm to run the public meetings and gather the data and input from community residents, the PCDC and Glasgow decided to spend the next several meetings reviewing the current documents. They will prepare an analysis of past implementation strategies and their current status.

At the June 24 meeting, the PCDC commissioners, Trustee Barney Dreistadt, and Glasgow also identified the following goals they wanted to focus on:

  • integration of transportation and land use, and how they work together.
  • safe pedestrian connectivity and from neighborhood to neighborhood.
  • multi-modal transportation, traffic safety, and parking during events.
  • economic stability of the town, to understand how to prepare if town revenue declines and taxes must be raised, or services cut.
  • ways to support local businesses, based on policies successful in other municipalities.
  • weed management and control of invasive weed species.
  • the future of the eastern corridor of Lyons.
  • affordable housing and preventing “losing the culture of the town,” as described by Commissioner David Hamrick.
  • limiting the ability of merging lots to build large, mansion homes.

Descriptions of intentions about affordable housing in the 2010 Comprehensive Plan were general, such as “Housing Strategy 1.2.2: Work with nonprofit partners such as Boulder County Housing and Human Services, Colorado Division of Housing, Habitat for Humanity, interested landowners and developers to explore opportunities to integrate affordable housing units into proposed development and redevelopment projects, including commercial and market-rate housing projects.”

The follow-on Lyons Recovery Action Plan was slightly more specific with descriptions of strategies to create a live-work development that can provide affordable housing for artists to live and incubate their trade and business; to encourage constructing homes that are affordable because of lot size, regulatory incentives, construction methods and materials, density, financial subsidies, and volunteer organizations; to encourage manufactured housing (including prefabricated, modular, and mobile homes); and to encourage alternative and sustainable housing developments with different ownership models.

An outgoing Lyons Board of Trustees board in April 2016 passed a resolution that set a goal of 10 percent of affordable housing (www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/220?fileID=323 ). It listed policy measures that future boards can consider to increase affordable housing, including (1) zoning changes that allow for denser development where it otherwise would not be permitted; (2) annexation conditions that favor affordable housing; (3) conditions on further market-rate, single family home construction; (4) deed restrictions, covenant controls and land leases; and (5) use of Lyons Urban Renewal Authority funds for projects combining commercial and residential development and placing as instruments of affordable housing.

In all of these documents, market-rate actions are mixed in with tax-payer subsidized actions to create affordable housing. Our town leaders, elected and appointed officials, and members of our community need to be careful to not view all these ideas as the same. Government or tax-payer-subsidized affordable housing, sometimes referred to as “permanent affordable housing” comes with requirements such as renting to households with specific low monthly incomes, or establishing deed restrictions for future sales prices. Unless limitations are added, other options like allowing more density or incentives to developers would only result in lower costs for the first tenant or purchaser, not to the ones that follow. These market-rate actions might help the developers save money, but to achieve long-lasting affordable housing, we can’t just rely on a trickle-down approach.

The encouraging news is that all community members have the opportunity to participate in the Lyons Comprehensive Plan update in the coming year. Those of us who participated in 2010 can remember the experience of sitting around tables with some neighbors we had never met before, talking about what we liked about living here, and sharing what we really wanted the Town of Lyons to be like in the future.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 destroyed homes in 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. However, $4 million of federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, and the State Housing Board voted in February to approve Summit Housing Group’s application for those funds for building 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Until Summit’s proposal, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued, but nothing got very far in the process.

The only post-flood, deed-restricted, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112, 114, and 116 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 first duplex was completed in April 2019, and more volunteer help is needed to finish the other buldings. 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. Help is most needed on weekdays. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, at 303-682-2485.

 

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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illustration by Priscilla Cohan, 2015 public engagement meeting

 

A few housing updates from this week’s Board of Trustees meeting

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Published in the June 20, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


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

A few housing updates from this week’s Trustees meeting

by Amy Reinholds

The June 17 meeting of the Lyons Board of Trustees included a few brief updates related to affordable housing.

The purchase and sale agreement with Paul Tamburello for town-owned land near U.S. 36 and Colorado 66, is still underway, and steps are continuing. Tamburello and “the Greens” Partnership originally proposed a mixed-use development including commercial, food agriculture, and affordable rental homes. Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen reported that a meeting with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) representatives helped Tamburello firm up development plans. CDOT said there could be a traffic signal at the east end of Highland Drive but not anything in between that location and the 36 and 66 intersection.

At the last Trustees meeting on June 3, Simonsen said the closing date with Tamburello is set for Sept. 30, 2019. In March, the Lyons Board of Trustees approved an agreement is to sell a total of about 7.58 acres of the eastern corridor property to Tamburello for $851,000. More than two years ago, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 from the City of Longmont. The Town of Lyons is building a new public works building on a portion of the land and is selling remaining parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. The town requested proposals for prospective buyers with development plans in the fall of 2017. At that time, the Greens Partnership (consisting of Tamburello, Donna Merten, and Thistle Community Housing) proposed purchasing all the land that Lyons is selling, on both the north and south sides of the highway (4.3 acres at 4651 Ute Hwy and 3.28 acres at 4652 Ute Hwy) for a mixed-use development that includes an innovative food agriculture business, a commercial kitchen, and affordable rental homes.

Tamburello told the trustees in March that he is still in discussion with Thistle Community Housing. Affordable rental homes could still be a possibility on some of the land he plans to purchase, but Tamburello is expected to bring forward a Planned Unit Development (PUD) application for commercial development first. At that time, he said that the Green Goo company was interested in a new headquarters at the location.

Since the original plans that the Greens partnership submitted in late 2017 and early 2018, Summit Housing Group’s plan for building affordable housing in Lyons Valley Park moved forward more quickly, and the State Housing Board approved Summit’s application for the full $4 million in federal funds set aside to build new affordable housing in Lyons after the 2013 flood. Thistle Community Housing wouldn’t have access to any of that funding for affordable housing, so it is less certain that Thistle affordable housing would be included in early development of that eastern corridor land.

Also at the June 17 meeting, Trustee Barney Dreistadt reported that a discussion with Boulder County about the Lyons Urban Renewal Authority and tax increment financing (TIF) included the possibility that some of the TIF funds raised in the future could be used for affordable housing. TIF is a public financing method that is used to subsidize infrastructure, redevelopment, and other community-improvement projects. Lyons has two Urban Renewal Authority districts – one in the commercial district in the downtown area, and one on the eastern corridor.

A third issue to consider related to affordable housing was also mentioned at the June 17 meeting. Simonsen reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would like to use the Town of Lyons as a formal case study for how the town was able to complete a Recovery Management Plan. FEMA representatives will be visiting Lyons in August.

I recall the year following the flood that many volunteers in town, including people who were still not living in their flood-damaged homes, participated in forming the Lyons Recovery Action Plan. A final version is available at http://www.townoflyons.com/documentcenter/view/388. Now is a good time to reflect on what worked well from that planning. The goals related to housing recovery were:

  • HOU 1.3.1: Encourage the development/construction of housing that is affordable by: a) virtue of the lot size, regulatory incentives, construction methodology and material usage, density; b) the use of financial subsidies and volunteer organizations. Responsible party: The Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force.
  • HOU 1.3.2: Encourage the development/construction of manufactured housing (including prefabricated, modular, and mobile homes). Responsible party: The Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force.
  • HOU 1.3.3: Encourage the construction of alternative and sustainable housing developments with different ownership models. Responsible party: Sustainable Futures Commission.
  • ACH 1.1.1: Create a live-work development that can provide affordable housing for artists as well as a space to incubate their trade and business. Responsible party: Lyons Arts and Humanities Council.
  • INF 1.1.2: Incentivize the implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures to create resilient and sustainable energy distribution. Responsible party: Sustainable Futures Commission.

With the FEMA case study at the end of the summer, we can review and ask how well our community has done so far in achieving these goals.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 destroyed homes in 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. However, $4 million of federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, and the State Housing Board voted in February to approve Summit Housing Group’s application for those funds for building 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Until Summit’s proposal, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued, but nothing got very far in the process.

The only post-flood, deed-restricted, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112, 114, and 116 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. The first duplex was completed in April 2019, and more volunteer help is needed to finish the other buildings. 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. Help is most needed on weekdays. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, at 303-682-2485.

 

 

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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Colorado’s “Space to Create” artist live-work housing program

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Published in the June 13, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.


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

Colorado’s “Space to Create” artist live-work housing program

by Amy Reinholds

In 2015, Governor John Hickenlooper announced “Space to Create, Colorado,” a state program to develop affordable housing and working space for artists and arts organizations. The program sends a call for applications periodically, for each of Colorado’s Division of Local Affairs regional groups.

This option could still be an opportunity for Lyons. So far a demonstration project was launched in July 2015 in Trinidad, and then Ridgway was the community selected in the Southwest region and Paonia was selected for Northwest region. Last fall, Grand Lake was announced as the community selected in the Northern Colorado region. Lyons is part of the North Central region, which includes Adams, Boulder, Broomfield, Gilpin, Larimer, and Weld counties, and applications have not opened for that region yet.

The communities within each region compete, and the selected towns work with Artspace, the partner for the “Space to Create, Colorado” program, for consulting on feasibility analysis of creative sector workforce space, community engagement work, and an arts market survey.

This is not a grant program where towns win funds. In fact, they have to have to bring some of their own resources to the table such as available property, buildings, and funding, according to Margaret Hunt, director of Colorado Creative Industries in the state’s Office of Economic Development, when I talked to her after the program was first announced. She said the program also looks at concentrations of artists in the community.

To be competitive in this process, Lyons should have a parcel of land ready and possibly some other funding sources. The first step will be an arts market and feasibility study that a community must pay for, Hunt said, regardless of whether a community wins the grant. However, there might be some other state funds to cover those study costs. Hunt said that each project will have unique funding, depending on the town’s resources. The project may or may not include low income housing tax credits or historic preservation tax credits. Feasibility and arts market studies may require $35,000 in local matching funds and the municipality must be the applicant to receive state funding

During the development of the Recovery Action Plan, “artist live-work housing” was a goal, and town officials said they should keep the Space to Create opportunity on the radar. I’m wondering whether any affordable housing that eventually goes on the eastern corridor could work with this program. On the Artspace website I found that “development projects typically involve the adaptive reuse of older buildings but can also involve new construction.”

According to the Space to Create website at coloradocreativeindustries.org/opportunities/space-to-create, criteria for selection of communities includes concentration of creative sector workforce, availability of historic buildings for adaptive re-use, available developable property, commitment of local resources by local governing body, and a demonstrated ability to execute community-based initiatives such as the Main Street and Creative District programs.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 destroyed homes in 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. However, $4 million of federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, and the State Housing Board voted in February to approve Summit Housing Group’s application for those funds for building 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Until Summit’s proposal, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued, but nothing got very far in the process.

The only post-flood, deed-restricted, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112, 114, and 116 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. The first duplex was completed in April 2019, and more volunteer help is needed to finish the other buldings. 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. Help is most needed on weekdays. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, at 303-682-2485.

 

 

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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