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.