Town considers incentives for affordable housing

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Published in the October 19, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Town considers incentives for affordable housing

by Amy Reinholds

The previous Board of Trustees for the Town of Lyons passed an affordable housing resolution in April 2016, specifying a goal of 10% affordable housing stock in Lyons with a list of possible housing policies and incentives that future boards can use to accomplish that goal.

Since then, the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, which describes the planning area where landowners can request to annex into the Town of Lyons if they want to be part of the town, and a request for proposals to purchase town-owned land on the eastern corridor both mention affordable housing as a goal. At their regular Monday meeting this week, trustees once again discussed the importance of affordable housing in Lyons, and possible ways to incentivize it as part of the annexation request process.

“We are losing businesses right and left, and one reason is there is no workforce,” Mayor Connie Sullivan said at the Oct. 16 meeting. “There is no place for the workforce to live.”

Trustee Juli Waugh said there may be push-back from Lyons residents who are “afraid of permanently affordable housing in their backyards.”

Trustee Wendy Miller supported incentives for annexations that include affordable housing, bringing attention to the need for rentals for local workers that far outweighs the available land for new housing. “I don’t think we’ll ever have a problem of too much housing in this town for the workforce,” she said.

Trustee Jim Kerr brought up the warning in the Primary Planning Area Master Plan that a mix of too much residential and not enough business in town could cause a net loss to the town budget. Trustees have agreed with this sentiment to maintain the right balance for financial stability, and they spoke about encouraging mixed-use (commercial and residential) development in annexation requests.

Some of the possible incentives Mayor Sullivan discussed informally were requiring a percentage of new development be affordable housing in exchange for easing some other annexation requirements for parcels under 10 acres.

The conversation about annexation requirements goes much deeper than incentivizing affordable housing, and no decisions on changes of any kind to the annexation process were made at the Oct. 16 meeting. The trustees expect to continue the public hearing on changes to annexation requirements to a Dec. 4 meeting, with a workshop to gather more information to be scheduled before then.

The trustees talked about how even if some requirements for applying to annex were changed, an annexation still goes through a complete process with the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Board of Trustees, and the trustees do not have to accept annexation proposals. When the annexation process gets to the trustees, they can think of affordable housing requirements as minimums and ask the applicants for more, Mayor Sullivan said.

Both the PCDC and the trustees will use the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan as a guide for annexation. You can read the final Master Plan, created with many months of input from neighbors and community members, at www.townoflyons.com/DocumentCenter/View/948. Also, to learn more about the Town of Lyons Affordable Housing Resolution see lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/outgoing-trustees-pass-affordable-housing-resolution and read the resolution itself at www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/220?fileID=323.

Easing some requirements for annexation applications in exchange for some affordable housing requirements “might help the town fully recover from the 2013 flood,” Mayor Sullivan said.

To get some perspective if you didn’t live in town before September 2013, consider that the Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes, beginning work this fall.

Other than those six homes that Habitat for Humanity will be building, no homes that are affordable to people who make less than 60 percent of the area median income are planned. (Affordable means that a household spends no more than a third of household income on housing costs – rent or mortgage.) None of those approximately 70 flood-destroyed homes have been added back into the housing stock of Lyons. So far, plans for three accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as carriage houses or mother-in-law apartments, have been approved for Lyons homeowners, although they have not been completed. These ADU apartment rentals would be market rate, although lower in cost because of size. So, if you want to count 9 new homes planned since the flood, that still leaves more than 60 homes that we are short in Lyons since the flood.

“I love the notion of enabling affordable housing,” Trustee Barney Dreistadt said about incentives in the annexation process. The board had talked about a previous citizen petition in years past related to annexation requests by developers of large, high-end residential neighborhoods. “What I would really love is to see a citizen petition come forward saying we want affordable housing in town,” he said, describing a situation where the registered voters of Lyons could demand town code require affordable housing, maybe as part of annexation or development proposals.

Anyone want to act on that challenge from Trustee Dreistadt?

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

 

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How to buy town-owned land on the eastern corridor, Part 2

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Published in the October 12, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

How to buy town-owned land on the eastern corridor, Part 2

by Amy Reinholds

This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased land on the eastern corridor to use a piece of it as a permanent home for the town’s flood-destroyed public works building and to sell remaining available parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the recent Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. On Oct. 3, a request for proposals (RFP) for prospective buyers was published on the town website with a closing date of Nov. 3.

“The Town seeks development that would complement existing businesses, maintain the small-town character, and assist with meeting its affordable housing goals,” the RFP document states. One of the evaluation factors for proposals will be “Meeting the Town’s affordable and attainable housing goals.”

The Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP is available on the Bid Opportunities page of the Town of Lyons website at www.townoflyons.com/140/Bid-Opportunities. The bids close Nov. 3. Interviews with highest-ranked developers will be scheduled in November, and selected developers will be notified Dec. 4. Purchase and sale contract is expected to be first quarter of 2018.

On April 25, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 from the City of Longmont: 6.45 acres on the north side of Colo. Hwy. 66 at 4651 Ute Hwy and 3.43 acres on south side at 4652 Ute Hwy. The Town of Lyons and the City of Longmont had agreed on a sales price of $925,000 for the land about a month earlier. The Lyons Board of Trustees voted in May to annex the land into Town of Lyons, and in June to approve municipal facilities (M) zoning for the public works building parcel and initial zoning of agricultural (A-1) zoning for the rest of the land (aiming to keep it similar to its Boulder County zoning before annexation).

On the northeast part of 4651 Ute Hwy, 2.15 acres will be the permanent home of the Lyons public works building (which was destroyed in the 2013 flood and temporary located at 4170 Ute Hwy after the flood). Sources of expected funding include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paying for the land where the Lyons public works building will be relocated and insurance funds from the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA) paying for the building itself. FEMA has told town staff that the public works building must be in progress, and significantly moving forward, by September.

The remaining 4.3 acres on the north side of the road at 4651 Ute Hwy and the 3.28 acres on the south side of the road at 4652 Ute Hwy will be available for sale. The Town of Lyons can put out an RFP for potential buyers who want to propose ideas to develop parts or all of the available land. After the land is sold, the Town of Lyons can reimburse the town water enterprise fund.

According to the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, created with many months of input from neighbors and community members, the land is determined as acceptable for mixed use, residential, and commercial development, including light industrial use (similar to existing residential and commercial uses in that area). This area has been considered as a possible area for affordable housing, discussed in past years when the town applied for a national resiliency grant that it did not receive.

Those of us interested in seeing more options for affordable housing return to Lyons should pay attention to two areas: 1) Are there proposals for mixed business and residential use on the eastern corridor that could include permanently affordable rentals (or a mix of rentals and home-ownership)? 2) What happens if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area? Can the centrally located land could open up for future permanently affordable rentals (or a mix of rentals and home-ownership) after the light-industrial businesses move east? The town stall and elected trustees have expressed support for these kind of “land swaps” if light-industrial businesses are interested.

In July, the Lyons Board of Trustees gave input into the draft RFP. See How to buy town-owned land on the eastern corridor (Part 1). Trustees suggested highlighting goals such as replacing lost housing, creating workforce housing (housing that workers at local businesses can afford), and giving existing local light-industrial businesses the opportunity to move to the eastern corridor. They said they wanted to see proposals for use of the land that results in greater housing diversity in the Lyons area.

After the town sells the land, the new owners and/or their developers will go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The zoning process includes several steps with the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission and the Lyons Board of Trustees. Landowners and developers will come forward with proposals that will be vetted publicly and include development reviews and public hearings.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes, beginning work this fall.

 

Town considers purchasing land for affordable housing

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Published in the October 5, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Town considers purchasing land for affordable housing

by Amy Reinholds

In previous columns, I covered the $4 million in federal disaster recovery funds that are currently still available for the Town of Lyons to create affordable housing after the 2013 flood. The Town of Lyons staff and elected officials have been looking at opportunities, including reaching out to land owners who want to sell land to the town or who might want to participate in a land swap to move to new town-owned land on the eastern corridor of Lyons.

The public learned a little more Monday night when Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen gave a housing update to the Board of Trustees. She said that if the Town of Lyons is going to use the $4 million disaster recovery funds that come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the town can’t use the funds to acquire properties that are in the floodplain. The board scheduled an executive session (closed to the public) at the end of the regular Oct. 2 meeting to discuss possible real estate transactions and negotiating positions and strategies for providing affordable housing in the town. In her housing staff report, Simonsen said she wanted to get direction from the trustees during the executive session and discuss the remaining options for available properties that aren’t in the floodplain.

Some of the properties on the list Simonsen collected after reaching out to property owners might fall off the list because of the floodplain issue, she said. Simonsen said that the town would be able to use the $4 million for properties in the floodplain if Lyons requests reimbursement after all flood-plain mitigation is completed, which would be years later, and too late. Instead, it might be better to look at using the $4 million to acquire land that is out of the floodplain, she said.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) – Disaster Recovery funds are grants from HUD “to help cities, counties, parishes, and states recover from presidentially declared disasters, especially in low- and moderate-income areas,” according to the HUD website. You can learn more about these funds at www.hud.gov/hudprograms/disaster-recovery. According to time lines discussed at previous meetings, any project using the $4 million for affordable housing that would come to Lyons through the State of Colorado must be identified by fall 2017 and already underway in 2019.

As far as what properties the town might buying, we don’t know yet. State sunshine laws allow the details of real estate negotiations to be private, but the information will become public when a contract is signed with a seller and the Town of Lyons.

For the last month or two, town staff have been meeting with business landowners interested in hearing options for relocating to the land on the eastern edge of town. This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased land from the City of Longmont to use a piece of it as a permanent home for the town’s flood-destroyed public works building and to sell remaining available parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the recent Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. On the northeast part of 4651 Ute Hwy, 2.15 acres will be the permanent home of the Lyons public works building. The remaining 4.3 acres on the north side of the road at 4651 Ute Hwy and the 3.28 acres on the south side of the road at 4652 Ute Hwy will be available for sale.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes, beginning work this fall.

A regional plan to address affordable housing

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Published in the September 28, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

A regional plan to address affordable housing

by Amy Reinholds

At the end of this week, the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership is gathering elected officials from towns and cities across the county to help refine a regional plan to address Boulder County’s affordable housing crisis. The goal is to emerge from this summit with a list of issues needed to work through to get to adoption of the plan county-wide by the end of the year. Elected officials will discuss what their jurisdictions are currently doing for affordable housing and what kind of support they need from each other to increase affordable housing.

According to a draft of “Priorities and Strategies for Ensuring a Diverse Housing Inventory,” communities across the county have made strong investments in affordable housing for many decades. “And, yet because of conflicting land use policies and a strong economic climate, it is widely acknowledged that the region is falling short of meeting the need for affordable, attainable, and workforce housing.”

According to the draft document, across Boulder County in a 12-year period, over 9,000 market rental units that were previously affordable to low income households were lost to price inflation and 21,000 market rate homes that were affordable to low, moderate and middle income households (priced below $300,000) were lost to price inflation. The draft of the plan states “Temporary and permanent loss of housing due to the Flood of 2013 put additional pressure on the housing market, and created further strain for low and moderate income households.” It also notes that “The percentage of older, wealthier households is increasing, while households of younger individuals, middle incomes, and families are declining.”

Beginning in 2016, a cross-jurisdictional working group, called the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership, began meeting to bring forward regional strategies. The partnership members include Boulder County staff from Boulder County Boulder County Housing & Human Services and Boulder County Community Services and City of Longmont staff from the Longmont Housing Authority and Longmont Community Services. Members also include City of Boulder staff from Boulder Housing Partners and the Boulder Division of Housing, and also representatives from the Boulder Chamber of Commerce and the Boulder Community Investment Program.

The primary focus of the plan is to increase the availability of affordable housing across the region. The Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership identified interconnected issues and opportunities to look at when discussing solutions to the regional affordable housing crisis. The plan identifies themes of business community contributions, transportation-based solutions and collaborations, private developers’ roles in supporting the production of affordable housing, flexibility for each community’s unique needs and character, desire for both affordable homeownership and rental options, and the best methods to communicate the need and the plan to all communities. You can see a draft of the plan that the elected officials will be reviewing at the summit at www.bouldercounty.org/families/housing/housing-energy.

According to the draft, “This plan recognizes that a dramatic increase in local and regional efforts and adoption of multiple strategies and funding sources are required to regain ground in preserving affordability and price diversity in the regional housing inventory.” I agree with an approach that acknowledges there are many pieces in a puzzle to try to solve affordable housing issues.

Strategies listed in the draft of the regional plan include establishing local and regional housing goals, a time frame, acquisition and new development goals, for sale and rental goals, goals to bolster financial resources for affordable housing, goals to secure land and redevelopment opportunities for future housing, goals to preserve existing affordable housing and market-rate attainable housing, and ways to align regulatory processes with housing goals.

It’s good to know that the Town of Lyons, and the Lyons community are not alone in this challenging quest for affordable housing. The Lyons Board of Trustees passed an Affordable Housing Resolution in April 2016 (see www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/220?fileID=323), but this regional plan includes many more ideas for tools to increase affordable housing. And I hope some of the success stories from other communities will provide some inspiration and practical experience to help Lyons.

I’ll continue following this issue and any steps that the Town of Lyons considers based on this plan. According to the draft plan, after the adoption of the goals and strategies, the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership will meet quarterly to review progress and prioritize new opportunities and funding resources. The partnership will report annually to the Boulder County Consortium of Cities, which is an organizational structure to promote interaction and communication among local governments.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes and expects to start work this fall.

Legal vacation rental process for residential zones begins Jan. 1

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Published in the September 21, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Legal vacation rental process for residential zones begins Jan. 1

by Amy Reinholds

Starting January 1, 2018, there will be a legal process for short-term vacation rental use by right in Town of Lyons residential zones. After a public hearing and agreeing to about 10 amendments at their meeting Monday, Sept. 18, the Lyons Board of Trustees unanimously approved an ordinance that lets homeowners rent out rooms to vacationers in the homes where they live.

A “use by right” means an allowed use that doesn’t require a conditional use review, with additional processes. “Short-term” means rental periods of less than 30 days. Right now, in town limits, short-term vacation rentals are not permitted by right on residential zoned land (neighborhoods where most of us live). Under current town code, to legally rent out rooms as short-term vacation rentals in residential (R-1 or R-2) zones, homeowners today need to complete a longer process to apply to run a bed and breakfast business, with several steps and public hearings before the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Board of Trustees. Bed and breakfast businesses with 6 or fewer units are allowed as a use by right on estate residential and agricultural zoned land (A1, A2, and Estate zones), if the homeowners have a business license and the rented units are in the main house. In addition to agricultural and estate zoned land, lodging is also allowed in commercial zoned land (including the CEC zone).

But it will now be much easier for homeowners on R-1 and R-2 zones who want to rent out short-term vacation rentals in their homes. The PCDC worked with Town of Lyons planning staff on the changes to town code for more than a year, including gathering input from vacation rental hosts. After hearing public comments at an August public hearing, the PCDC voted to recommend that the Lyons Board of Trustees approve an ordinance adding and amending town code to allow some short-term vacation rental use by right. On Monday night, the trustees agreed, but they made several changes to the ordinance that they approved.

The use by right in residential zones will be less than a bed and breakfast business, and no conditional use review process would be required. However, homeowners will be required to get a short-term vacation rental business license, to comply with safety-based requirements such as certifying they have smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers, and to acknowledge that the Lyons Fire Protection District may require an inspection. Licenses can be revoked for reasons such as insufficient responses to repeated complaints from neighboring residents or law enforcement.

Other requirements include:

  • Homeowners must live in the home at least 9 months out of each calendar year.
  • Homeowners can only rent to one party of guests at a time (one room or suite of rooms)
  • Occupancy is limited to 2 adults per bedroom, with a maximum of 8 adults.
  • No more than two vehicles can be parked overnight on the street outside the vacation rental.
  • Homeowners must pay sales tax to the state (which can be collected and administered by companies like Airbnb) and have an annual short-term vacation rental business license for the Town of Lyons.
  • Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in recreation vehicles (which includes any vehicles with a VIN number), tents, campers, or other temporary structures.
  • Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed on properties with accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as mother-in-law apartments or carriage houses – either in the ADU or in main home if the owner lives in an ADU. You can learn more about ADUs, which are intended to increase availability of long-term rentals, by reading the Lyons municipal code at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units.

The Board of Trustees will determine the fees needed to administer the short-term vacation rental program, including the short-term vacation rental business license cost. Look for materials posted on the Town of Lyons website at www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/Board-of-Trustees-3.

What do these new changes to allow short-term vacation rentals mean for affordable housing in the Town of Lyons? I started following this issue when Lyons staff and the PCDC first started looking at allowing short-term rentals, because I care about rental housing that people who work in town can afford. Some communities with unmanaged short-term vacation rentals deal with a new problem of fewer longer-term rentals that local employees can afford. I saw the PCDC and the Board of Trustees as a whole aim to balance minimal impact on neighborhoods and general ease of compliance for homeowners who want to rent out rooms in the homes they live in. Over the year I followed these discussions, I saw PCDC commissioners and trustees care about availability of long-term rentals for local employees. I’m glad a majority of both the commissioners and trustees voted in support of approaches that value the needs of affordable housing and long-term renters and not just property owners.

The ordinance that was approved mentions both benefits and adverse effects of short-term vacation rentals. It states that allowing homeowners to rent rooms to overnight guests brings additional visitors to town to spend money at local shops, increasing revenue through additional sales taxes. It also states that renting short-term vacation rentals can include “adverse impacts upon adjacent properties, the character of residential neighborhoods, the availability of long-term rental housing, public services…”

I agree that not all homeowners who have a spare bedroom and bathroom want to have a roommate year round, but they might want to occasionally rent out that space to vacationers. That doesn’t concern me as much as someone who has an entire apartment, who would otherwise rent it monthly to someone who works in town but sees a way to make more money renting the space to tourists. That’s why I’m glad the ADU ordinance requires rentals must be at least 30 days (month-to-month).

Mayor Connie Sullivan even expressed these values when she said during the discussion Monday night “I think it should be easier to do an ADU and a long-term rental” than short-term vacation rentals. Trustees Dan Greenberg and Wendy Miller introduced and voted for amendments that kept in mind the concerns of renters looking for places to live in town. “It takes away what little housing stock we have,” Miller said to an earlier proposal to allow homeowners to be away 6 months out of the year and still rent out short-term vacation rentals. Miller recommended a required 9 months of homeowner occupancy instead, which made it into the final ordinance. Trustee Jim Kerr, whose wife gave input at earlier PCDC meetings as a vacation rental host, supported amendments that were more advantageous for homeowners and vacation rental hosts than concerns of longer-term renters in Lyons, or surrounding neighbors. Trustee Juli Waugh also supported some amendments that helped homeowners more than long-term renters, but she did say “I think the public is comfortable with what we have put together” as the changes to town code. Trustees Barney Dreistadt and Mike Karavas were mixed in their support of specific amendments. But all trustees approved the final resolution unanimously.

To me, a balance means that affordability is not just for those who own homes, but also for those who can only rent at this time in their lives. Consider that a homeowner in Lyons who needs to cover costs of a mortgage can easily do so with longer-term renters, and doesn’t have to rent only to short-term vacationers in order to “afford” to keep her house. For example, not only can an artist or musician who worked hard enough to own a home in Lyons gain additional opportunities to cover the mortgage payments, but another starving-artist muralist or fiddle player (or even an elementary school teacher!) can find an affordable longer-term rental in the spare room, apartment, or basement suite. Better yet, if it’s in the same house, they might even collaborate on projects that we all can enjoy. I call that a win-win situation for the homeowners, the long-term renters, and our entire community.

The new changes to municipal code to allow short-term vacation rentals will be implemented by the Town of Lyons on Jan. 1, 2018. Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen and Town Planner Paul Glasgow are working on an educational plan to roll out information and resources to the public.

Keep in mind that the changes to Town of Lyons code apply only to short-term vacation rentals in the Town of Lyons. People who own homes outside Lyons town limits are subject to the specific regulations for their county (Boulder or Larimer). Even within town limits, it’s important to know that some homeowners associations and deed-restricted affordable housing have more restrictive rules than Town of Lyons ordinances.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes and expects to start work this fall.

The path ahead in our 5th year of flood recovery

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Published in the September 14, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

The path ahead in our 5th year of recovery

by Amy Reinholds

This week is the 4th anniversary of the flooding that greatly affected our community and destroyed about 70 homes that were not rebuilt. To see some signs of continued recovery, I hope you were able to attend yesterday’s Habitat for Humanity ground blessing ceremony, the tours of Bohn Park, and the Town Hall meeting with flood recovery updates.

As we see the news media and social media now are filled with pictures and news of destructive hurricanes in Texas and Florida, it reminds me of what I wrote in my column last year at the 3rd anniversary of the Lyons flood: “Although it sounds gloomy, there is always going to be another natural disaster somewhere, whether the New Jersey coast, the Gulf Coast, Nepal, Oklahoma, Japan, Mexico, Texas, India, South Carolina, California, Louisiana, or somewhere else. I urge you to regularly donate to organizations you have seen help in Lyons, so they are ready to deploy wherever the next disaster hits.”

To help, we can donate to groups that we had personal experience with with Lyons, such as the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Team Rubicon, and Calvary Relief

As the Town of Lyons goes through its 5th year of flood recovery, our community will see some of the six Habitat for Humanity homes built – and even volunteer to help build them. Keep reading my columns this fall for updates on volunteer build days. In addition, there are two other housing issues that the Town of Lyons staff and elected officials are focused on in the upcoming months:
1) a free-market issue: balancing the need for more rentals in town with existing homeowners’ interest in renting to vacationers, and
2) a subsidized, permanently affordable housing issue: not losing $4 million in federal flood recovery dollars set aside for building permanently affordable housing in town.

The first issue of balancing the need of more rentals in town with existing homeowners’ wants to rent their homes as short-term vacation rentals, is common in many communities. Unfortunately the reduction in the number of available homes in Lyons after the flood makes this issue more severe. If you own your home in the town limits of Lyons, you can help provide more lower-cost rentals in town by complying with the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinance, which allows small apartments or carriage houses to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners $20,000-$40,000 in construction costs). You can read the ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units. 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.

However, in August the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) recommended a new, proposed short-term vacation rental ordinance that would allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in residential R-1 zones in the Town of Lyons, just not in ADUs. The Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing on the code changes for this new allowance on Monday, Sept. 18. (See the agenda at www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/Board-of-Trustees-3.) This is the balance that the PCDC was seeking, to allow homeowners in Lyons town limits to rent out rooms or suites as short-term vacation rentals in homes where they live, while minimizing impact on neighborhoods and keeping ADUs for long-term renters who work in town.

Our town has a responsibility to watch out for the people in our community who are most vulnerable, post-disaster. I want the town leaders to think about the implications of the vacation rental policy on renters who are seeking an affordable place to live long-term in Lyons. People who own homes in Lyons are more likely to attend town meetings and voice their opinions about their needs and interests. Our town should care about needs of renters, too, not just the needs of homeowners and vacationers.

For the second issue, the mayor and trustees have said at multiple meetings that they do not want to lose $4 million in federal flood recovery funds that is earmarked for housing in Lyons. That means they are encouraging mixed-use, affordable housing/commercial proposals for purchasing town-owned land at 4651 and 4652 Ute Hwy (for example, commercial buildings along the highway with residential behind or above). And, they are encouraging “land swaps” of manufacturing and light-industrial businesses moving to the Ute Hwy land, opening up locations in central areas of town for affordable housing. Town staff have been meeting with business landowners interested in hearing options for relocating to the land on the eastern edge of town.

This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased land from the City of Longmont to use a piece of it as a permanent home for the town’s flood-destroyed public works building and to sell remaining available parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the recent Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. On the northeast part of 4651 Ute Hwy, 2.15 acres will be the permanent home of the Lyons public works building. The remaining 4.3 acres on the north side of the road at 4651 Ute Hwy and the 3.28 acres on the south side of the road at 4652 Ute Hwy will be available for sale.

Town leaders have not mentioned yet what affordable housing partners the Town of Lyons might work with on the smaller affordable apartments in the central part of town or on the eastern corridor. Based on the size of the areas they are talking about, I expect proposals would be similar to the Walter Self Senior Housing apartments near the post office. Expect to hear staff reports from Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen at upcoming meetings with the mayor and trustees, maybe even as early as Monday, Sept. 18. Trustees have said that a plan must be in place by the end of September.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes and broke ground by the 4-year anniversary of the flood.

Habitat ground blessing Sept. 13, four years after the flood

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Published in the September 7, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Habitat ground blessing Sept. 13, four years after the flood

by Amy Reinholds

Next Wednesday is the four-year anniversary of the flooding disaster that profoundly affected the Town of Lyons. Although about 70 homes were lost and not yet rebuilt, we can celebrate one small blessing, which will be very meaningful to six families who will be new Habitat for Humanity homeowners in the coming years. At 5 p.m. on Sept. 13, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley will hold a “ground blessing” ceremony at the land the non-profit purchased last year on Park Street, west of 2nd Ave.

Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley wants to mark the start of the site work for the three permanently affordable duplexes (six homes total). The project itself is a community asset, and the ground blessing is an opportunity to come together to mark the date that the site infrastructure work begins, according to Dave Emerson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. It aligns with other Town of Lyons flood recovery events that commemorate 4 years after the flood: Tours of Bohn Park at 5:30 p.m. and a Town Hall Flood Recovery Update meeting at 7 p.m.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. First preference for the new homes is for applicants displaced from their homes 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. If all six homes can’t be filled with homeowners in the first preference category, the second and third preferences are for applicants from surrounding areas who were displaced by the 2013 flood, and those with ties to the Lyons 80540 area, such as current local residents, families of Lyons students, and area employees.

So far, applicants have been selected for three out of the six homes, and all are in the first preference category. Another application round will start in January 2018. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference is for applicants at 60% of area median income or below, but households that earn as much as 80% of the area median income can also be included.

In addition to agreeing to partner with Habitat to put in volunteer hours on construction of their home and their neighbors’ homes, applicants must meet other requirements for mortgages. For example, they must have a debt-to-income ratio of 43% or lower (more flexible than what traditional lenders require) and have credit reports that meet specific requirements. As with any mortgage application, the most common challenges to qualifying are related to debt-to-income ratio and credit reports. St. Vrain Habitat mortgages are usually about $150,000, and have no interest. Monthly mortgage payments, including escrow, are set at 27% of the household gross monthly income.

You can read more about the Habitat for Humanity application process at www.stvrainhabitat.org/lyons. Applicants from the earlier rounds whose applications weren’t accepted can meet with Habitat staff to discuss needed steps to take for the third round in January.

In November 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots from Craig Ferguson of Planet Bluegrass and his LLC. The lots are on Park Street, west of 2nd Ave, south of the former Valley Bank building (which remains on a separate commercial lot). At the end of July, the construction plan for public improvements that Habitat for Humanity must complete was approved by the Town of Lyons engineering staff. Then Habitat for Humanity selected a contractor to do the public improvement infrastructure work. The infrastructure work is expected to take about 3 to 4 months but can overlap with foundation work for the duplexes. Volunteers to work on construction of homes probably are not needed until later this year, after at least the foundation for the first duplex is completed.

This ground breaking wouldn’t be happening without Lyons Special Housing Committee volunteer Tom Delker suggesting in 2015 that Craig Ferguson subdivide and sell land to Habitat for Humanity. And it wouldn’t be happening without Ferguson and his LLC partners investing in the Valley Bank land originally and then completing the PUD and subdivision process and selling the residential lots to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. And it wouldn’t be happening without the Lyons Board of Trustees waiving utility connection fees that the town has control over for these 6 homes. And, finally, it wouldn’t be happening without Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley’s perseverance and commitment to the Lyons community.

Walk south of the old Valley Bank building on Sept. 13 at 5 p.m. Look for the world’s biggest shovel to break the ground – and a very big collective heart from the Lyons community to bless the site of these new homes.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes and expects to start work this fall.

Planning Commission recommends allowing vacation rentals in residential zones

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Published in the August 31, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Planning Commission recommends allowing vacation rentals in residential zones

by Amy Reinholds

Homeowners in R1 residential zones in the town limits of Lyons are now one step closer to being able to legally rent out rooms as short-term vacation rentals as a use by right. The Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) voted Monday to recommend that the Lyons Board of Trustees approve an ordinance that lets homeowners rent out rooms to vacationers in the homes where they live.

A “use by right” means an allowed use that doesn’t require a conditional use review, with additional processes. “Short-term” means rental periods of less than 30 days. Right now, in town limits, short-term vacation rentals are not permitted by right on R1 residential zoned land (neighborhoods where most of us live). Under current town code, to legally rent out rooms as short-term vacation rentals in residential zones, homeowners today need to complete a longer process to apply to run a Bed and Breakfast business, with several steps and public hearings before the PCDC and the Board of Trustees.

But renting short-term vacation rentals could become much easier with the changes the PCDC recommended. After hearing public comments at the Aug. 28 public hearing, the PCDC voted to recommend that the Lyons Board of Trustees approve an ordinance adding and amending town code to allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in R1 residential zones in the Town of Lyons.

The use would be less than a bed and breakfast, and no conditional use review process would be required. However, homeowners would be required to get a short-term vacation rental business license, to comply with safety-based requirements such as certifying they have smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers, and to acknowledge that the Lyons Fire Protection District may require an inspection.

The recommended changes to town code would allow this new business use in R1 residential zones by right, including the following rules:

  • Homeowners can only rent to one party of guests at a time (one room or suite of rooms)
  • Occupancy is limited to 2 adults per room, with a maximum of 8 total adults.
  • Homeowners must pay sales tax to the state (which can be collected and administered by companies like Airbnb) and have an annual short-term vacation rental business license for the Town of Lyons.
  • Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in recreation vehicles (which includes any vehicles with a VIN number), tents, campers, or other temporary structures.
  • Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in accessory dwelling units (ADUs). You can learn more about ADUs, also known as mother-in-law apartments or carriage houses, and intended to increase availability of long-term rentals, by reading the Lyons municipal code at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units.
  • Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in permanently affordable, deed-restricted homes (for example Habitat for Humanity homes, when they are built).

The Board of Trustees will determine the fees needed to administer the program, including the short-term vacation rental business license cost.

On September 5, the ordinance goes before the trustees for a first reading. PCDC chair Gregg Oetting will attend the meeting and will also address the PCDC’s earlier recommendation of a budget for staff enforcement of the town ordinances.

If the trustees approve the ordinance on first reading, it goes to a second reading at the next trustees meeting on Sept. 19. The earliest the new Town of Lyons municipal code changes and additions could go into effect is the day after the trustees approve the second reading of the ordinance.

The public will have a chance to give input again, when the trustees hold a public hearing. Look for materials posted on the Town of Lyons website at www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/Board-of-Trustees-3.

What do these proposed changes to allow short-term vacation rentals mean for affordable housing in the Town of Lyons? I started following this issue when Lyons staff and the PCDC first started looking at allowing short-term rentals, because I care about rental housing that people who work in town can afford. Some communities with unmanaged short-term vacation rentals deal with a new problem of fewer longer-term rentals that local employees can afford.

The PCDC aimed to balance minimal impact on neighborhoods and general ease of compliance for homeowners who want to rent out rooms in the homes they live in. Over the year I followed these discussions, I saw PCDC commissioners care about availability of long-term rentals for local employees. The ordinance that the PCDC voted to recommend mentions both benefits and adverse effects of short-term vacation rentals. It states that allowing homeowners to rent rooms to overnight guests brings additional visitors to town to spend money at local shops, increasing revenue through additional sales taxes. It also states that renting short-term vacation rentals can include “adverse impacts upon adjacent properties, the character of residential neighborhoods, the availability of long-term rental housing, public services…”

I agree that not all homeowners who have a spare bedroom and bathroom want to have a roommate year round, but they might want to occasionally rent out that space to vacationers. That doesn’t concern me as much as someone who has an entire apartment, who would otherwise rent it monthly to someone who works in town but sees a way to make more money renting the space to tourists. That’s why I’m glad the ADU ordinance requires rentals must be at least 30 days (month-to-month).

To me, a balance means that affordability is not just for those who own homes, but also for those who can only rent at this time in their lives. Not only can an artist or musician who worked hard enough to own a home in Lyons gain additional opportunities to cover the mortgage payments, but another “starving artist” muralist, fiddle player – or even an elementary school teacher – can find an affordable longer-term rental in the spare room, apartment, or basement suite. Better yet, if all of these creative folks live in the same house, they might even collaborate on projects that we all can enjoy. I call that a win-win situation.

I’ll be watching to see if the trustees care about the same balance when deciding to allow short-term vacation rentals in Lyons.

The recommendations from the PCDC apply only to short-term vacation rentals in the Town of Lyons. People who own homes outside Lyons town limits are subject to the specific regulations for their county (Boulder or Larimer). It’s also important to know that some homeowners associations have more restrictive rules than Town of Lyons ordinances.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes and expects to start work this fall.

 

 

Trustees hear affordable housing updates, businesses interested in land swaps

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Published in the August 24, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Trustees hear affordable housing updates, businesses interested in land swaps

by Amy Reinholds

So far, about three local owners of light-industrial businesses are interested in learning more about relocating to town-owned land on the eastern corridor, which could open up more centrally located space in Lyons for affordable housing, according to a report from Lyons Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen on Monday.

Simonsen told the Town of Lyons trustees at their regular meeting Aug. 21 that she had reached out to about 12 different landowners of current manufacturing and industrial businesses, and so far three have responded saying they are interested in discussing the idea further. Trustees and Simonsen discussed upcoming ads in local papers and the town email blast to let local businesses know about the opportunity.

This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased land on the eastern corridor to use a piece of it as a permanent home for the town’s flood-destroyed public works building and to sell remaining available parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the recent Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. A request for proposals (RFP) for prospective buyers is expected to be ready soon. The land has been considered as a possible area for affordable housing, and if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area, land in central parts of town could open up for affordable housing.

On the northeast part of 4651 Ute Hwy, 2.15 acres will be the permanent home of the Lyons public works building. The remaining 4.3 acres on the north side of the road at 4651 Ute Hwy and the 3.28 acres on the south side of the road at 4652 Ute Hwy will be available for sale.

Trustees support “land swaps” of light-industrial businesses moving to the Ute Hwy land, and opening up land in town for affordable housing. The town does not want to lose $4 million in federal disaster recovery funds that are earmarked for housing in Lyons. A plan must be in place by end of September of this year that describes how the $4 million can be spent in Lyons, and the plan cannot change.

What can you do to help? If a manufacturing or industrial business in your neighborhood is interested in moving out east, and affordable housing is proposed in its place, be supportive. Welcome a new small apartment building like Walt Self senior housing by the post office that provides a rental option for friends and neighbors on fixed incomes, or working families who are part of the fabric of our community but can’t keep up with the skyrocketing rents in our town. Do you know a business that wants to swap a light-industrial parcel in town to move out east? Do you know an affordable housing organization that would be a good builder and operator of a small group of rental apartments? Contact Victoria Simonsen at Lyons Town Hall. I’m interested in what creative ideas our town can come up with.

Also, if you care about affordable housing for renters in the Town of Lyons, don’t miss next Monday’s public hearing before the Planning and Community Development Commission about the short-term vacation rental policy for residential zone properties in the Town of Lyons. The Aug. 28 meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

Right now, in town limits, short-term vacation rentals are not permitted by right on residential (R-1 and R-2) zoned land (neighborhoods where most of us live). A new, proposed short-term vacation rental ordinance that the PCDC and town planning staff are working on would also allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in residential zones (R-1 and R-2) in the Town of Lyons. To give residential property owners a break, the PCDC looked into simplifying town policy to allow renting rooms or suites in a house in a residential zone where the owner lives, to only one party at a time, with limited number of people in that party.

Not all homeowners who have a spare bedroom and bathroom want to have a roommate year round, but they might want to occasionally rent out that space to vacationers. That doesn’t concern me as much as someone who has an entire space, suite, or apartment, who would otherwise rent it monthly to someone who works in town but now sees a way to make more money renting the space to tourists. You can read a previous column I wrote at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/planning-commission-holds-public-hearing-about-vacation-rentals-aug-28.

Town of Lyons residents and elected officials say they want affordable housing, but there is evidence that unrestricted short-term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods drive up housing costs. A study published last month titled The Sharing Economy and Housing Affordability: Evidence from Airbnb found that a 10% increase in Airbnb listings in a zip code leads to a 0.39% increase in rents and a 0.64% increase in house prices. See papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3006832.

Also at the Aug. 21 meeting with trustees, Simonsen also shared additional information about affordable housing she learned at a conference with the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs. The State of Colorado has released a new 2017 edition of the Affordable Housing Guide for Local Officials, which is described as “a one-stop compilation of funding, programs, housing options, service providers, and terminology.”Anyone can view the guide at dola.gitbooks.io/affordable-housing-guide. Simonsen also reported that she met Tim Gough, a housing development specialist for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Region 1 counties (which includes Boulder County). According to the website, the Division of Housing for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs “works with a variety of partners to increase the availability of affordable housing to residents of Colorado.” The Divsion of Housing “provides grants, loans, rental subsidies and bond authority to local governments, housing authorities, non-profit organizations, for-profit and non-profit developers, private landlords and other organizations to create, preserve and rehabilitate housing for Colorado’s workers, families, seniors and those with special needs.”

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes and expects to start work this fall.

Top 3 things you can do to support affordable housing

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Published in the August 17, 2017, edition of the  Lyons Recorder.  A shorter version of this content was published in the September 13, 2017, edition of the Redstone Review.

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

Top 3 things you can do this fall to support affordable housing

by Amy Reinholds

Like many of us who lived in Lyons during September 2013, I was encouraged by neighbors helping neighbors in the immediate days and weeks of the flood disaster. Then I was extremely discouraged in March 2015, when a proposal to set aside five to seven acres of Bohn Park for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election.

The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including one buy out of a mobile home park) and to the changed use of a second mobile home park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). I was a member of the Housing Recovery Task Force, a group of Lyons community members who volunteered their time from December 2013 to February 2015 to look for affordable housing options. After the vote failed that March, I encouraged some opponents of the first proposal and others interested in “other options” to volunteer their time on another group, and the Board of Trustees appointed the Lyons Special Housing Committee, which existed from April 2015-April 2016. I was appointed to the Lyons Human Services & Aging Commission, another volunteer commission, which continues to identify overall gaps in services for all segments of our population in the 80540 area.

Now, almost 4 years after the flood, newcomers to town sometimes ask how they can help with affordable housing. Members of the community often ask me the status of some past affordable housing efforts the Town of Lyons volunteer commissions, employees, and elected officials were pursuing. Do you want to help?

Here are three ways you can be part of the solution:

  1. Welcome affordable rentals in your neighborhood.
  2. Support Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley.
  3. Rent to local employees and people who lost their homes in the flood instead of to short-term tourists.

 

1. Welcome affordable rentals in your neighborhood.

This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased land on the eastern corridor to use a piece of it as a permanent home for the town’s flood-destroyed public works building and to sell remaining available parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the recent Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. At the end of this week, a request for proposals (RFP) for prospective buyers is expected to be ready. The land has been considered as a possible area for affordable housing, and if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area, land in central parts of town could open up for affordable housing.

On the northeast part of 4651 Ute Hwy, 2.15 acres will be the permanent home of the Lyons public works building. The remaining 4.3 acres on the north side of the road at 4651 Ute Hwy and the 3.28 acres on the south side of the road at 4652 Ute Hwy will be available for sale.

Trustee Barney Dreistadt told the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) on August 14 that the town does not want to lose $4 million that is earmarked for housing in Lyons by the Boulder County Collaborative, a group determining how federal funds are distributed locally. But that means that a plan must be in place by end of September of this year that describes how the $4 million can be spent in Lyons, and the plan cannot change.

Trustees support “land swaps” of light-industrial businesses moving to the Ute Hwy land, and opening up land in town for affordable housing. What can you do? If a light-industrial business in your neighborhood is interested in moving out east, and affordable housing is proposed in its place, be supportive. Welcome a new small apartment building like Walt Self senior housing by the post office that provides a rental option for friends and neighbors on fixed incomes, or working families who are part of the fabric of our community but can’t keep up with the skyrocketing rents in our town.

Nothing has been proposed yet, but if another affordable rental building is proposed in my neighborhood, I plan to say “Yes, in my back yard” to help my community.

And do you know a business that wants to swap a light-industrial parcel in town to move out east? Let light-industrial businesses know about this opportunity. Do you know an affordable housing organization that would be a good builder of a small group of apartments? Contact Lyons Town Hall, and let me know, too!

2. Support Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley.

Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley never gave up on the Town of Lyons, even after the proposal for affordable housing in Bohn Park was rejected by a majority of Town of Lyons voters, and after a long journey to purchase even a small parcel in Town of Lyons. You can support a permanently affordable home-ownership model for 6 households in Lyons by supporting the non-profit organization with your time and money. And you can be supportive for new homeowners by welcoming them to the neighborhood and volunteering on construction of their homes later this year.

Planning for a permanently affordable home-ownership model with 3 duplexes, in November 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots from Craig Ferguson of Planet Bluegrass and his LLC. The lots are on Park Street, west of 2nd Ave, south of the former Valley Bank building (which remains on a separate commercial lot). At the end of July, the construction plan for public improvements that Habitat for Humanity must complete was approved by the Town of Lyons engineering staff. The next steps for Habitat for Humanity include selecting a contractor to do the public improvement infrastructure work. The infrastructure work is expected to take about 3 to 4 months.

Habitat for Humanity also needs building permits, which have been previously committed by the Lyons Board of Trustees to cost no more than $15,000 per home (after an agreement to waive water and sewer connection fees that the town has control of). Some of the work required for the building permits was already completed as part of the construction plan for public improvements. After Habitat for Humanity has the building permits for the six homes, the foundations can be poured for all three duplexes. The foundation work can overlap with the public improvement work if needed, according to Executive Director David Emerson. Volunteers to work on construction of homes probably are not needed until later this fall, after at least the foundation for the first duplex is completed.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference is for applicants at 60% of area median income or below, but households that earn as much as 80% of the area median income can also be included.

Two rounds of applications for home ownership have been completed, and a total of three applications are moving forward so far. Habitat for Humanity, future homeowners, and volunteers will work on the first three homes first, and a third round to select applicants for the final two homes will be open in January, after the construction is underway. That way applicants won’t have a long wait between selection and home completion. It also gives applicants more time to prepare applications and related requirements for mortgages, such as reducing debt-to-income ratios and getting issues corrected on credit reports. The first preference category of 80540 residents displaced from their homes as a result of the 2013 flood still has priority in the third round.

You can read more about this project in my previous column at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/next-steps-for-habitat-homes-at-2nd-and-park/. You can find out more about donating and volunteering at www.stvrainhabitat.org.

3. Rent to local employees and people who lost their homes in the flood instead of to short-term tourists.

Does gentrification make you uneasy or irritated? Want to keep the “funky” artists and musicians in Lyons? If you are a homeowner in Lyons, you have the power to fight gentrification by how you decide to rent your available spaces.

If you own your home in the town limits of Lyons, you can help provide more lower-cost rentals in town by complying with the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinance, which allows small apartments or carriage houses to share utility connection fees with the main house (saving homeowners $20,000-$40,000 in construction costs). You can read the ADU ordinance at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units. 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.

Even if you don’t have a complete apartment, but you have some extra space, consider renting to a housemate who works at a local business.

Right now, in town limits, short-term vacation rentals are not permitted by right on residential (R-1 and R-2) zoned land (neighborhoods where most of us live). It’s true that a new, proposed short-term vacation rental ordinance that the PCDC and town planning staff are working on would also allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in residential R-1 zones in the Town of Lyons. To give residential property owners a break, the PCDC looked into simplifying town policy to allow renting rooms or suites in a house in a residential zone where the owner lives, to only one party at a time, with limited number of people in that party.

Not all homeowners who have a spare bedroom and bathroom want to have a roommate year round, but they might want to occasionally rent out that space to vacationers. That doesn’t concern me as much as someone who has an entire space, suite, or apartment, who would otherwise rent it monthly to someone who works in town but suddenly sees a way to make more money renting the space to tourists. A study published last month titled The Sharing Economy and Housing Affordability: Evidence from Airbnb found that a 10% increase in Airbnb listings in a zip code leads to a 0.39% increase in rents and a 0.64% increase in house prices. See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3006832.

If you care about affordable housing for renters in Lyons, don’t miss the August 28 public hearing before the PCDC about the short-term vacation rental policy for residential zone properties in the Town of Lyons. You can read the column I wrote last week at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/planning-commission-holds-public-hearing-about-vacation-rentals-aug-28/

In addition to the choices that individual homeowners make, real estate agents and property managers can help by linking new Lyons homeowners with tenants who really need a place to live so they can continue to serve you coffee, cocktails, or tacos in local businesses or teach your kids music lessons. We need more heroes in Lyons to take these actions, and I know our wonderful community is filled with champions who are capable of this work.

This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.