Thistle affordable housing could come to Lyons as part of eastern corridor proposal

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Published in the January 17, 2017, edition of the Redstone Review.

COMMENTARY: AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN LYONS

Thistle affordable housing could come to Lyons as part of eastern corridor proposal

 By Amy Reinholds
Affordable Housing Columnist
Redstone Review

LYONS – Thistle, a non-profit that has been building and managing affordable housing in communities in the Boulder County area for more than 30 years, is one of three partners in a proposal on the eastern corridor of Lyons. Before a Jan. 16 meeting where the Lyons Board of Trustees was scheduled to hear more about the request for proposals (RFP) application to purchase town-own land, I talked with Thistle CEO Mary Duvall about the organization and its approach.

With 871 homes at the end of 2017, Thistle affordable housing includes a diverse mix of rental units, home ownership, and community land trusts in both mobile home parks and condominium buildings. Thistle is part of NeighborWorks America, a non-profit chartered by congress to bring local and independent housing solutions to communities.

“We’re a community-based non-profit,” Duvall said. “We’re able to look at the market, see what makes sense, and determine what our response can be.”

Examples of Thistle rentals include 1200 Kimbark in Longmont, the Cannery Apartments at 15 3rd Ave. in Longmont, and Parkside Village Townhomes at 5007-5095 Valmont Rd. in Boulder. All are listed on the website at www.thistle.us.

The application for the Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP that the Board of Trustees is reviewing proposes buying town-owned land east of Colo. Hwy. 66 and U.S. 36 and building 45 affordable housing units for rent (built and managed by Thistle), an aquaponics farm and grocery, and a commercial kitchen. Other than Thistle, the partnership that submitted the proposal includes a developer who has worked in the Denver Highland neighborhood and Donna Merten of Boulder-based real estate development firm Merten Development, who is interested in aquaponics farming.

Duvall said that Merten contacted Thistle about her vision for a gateway to Lyons that incorporates agriculture and housing.

“We had been looking at other agriculture communities,” Duvall said, adding that it’s particularly important to recognize the history of the area while planning new development and new industry.

Merten also partnered with Paul Tamburello of the GENERATOR real estate and development firm, who is on the board of directors of GrowHaus, a nonprofit indoor farm, marketplace and educational center in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood. Tamburello developed and consulted on several well-known projects around the Highland neighborhood of Denver including Root Down and Linger restaurants and LoHi Market Place, and he owns Little Man Ice Cream.

The selection committee for the Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP decided to move forward on a recommendation for this proposal in December and planned to make an official report to the trustees on Jan. 16. The selection committee includes Town Planner and Director of Community Development Paul Glasgow, Director of Community Relations and Programs Kim Mitchell, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen, and chairs of the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Economic Development Commission (Gregg Oetting and Lora Gilson).

In April 2017, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 from the City of Longmont to use a portion 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. The land has been annexed into town, and the part that is for sale is currently zoned as agricultural land.

The Merten-Tamburello-Thistle proposal is for 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). The application mentions a possible hotel or micro-apartments for rent on the south side of Hwy. 66.

At press time, we did not know what the trustees decided on Jan. 16, if they were interested in selling town-owned land to the partnership, and whether they directed staff to accept this RFP application. Watch for future columns about next steps. As part of town process, after the town sells land, the new owners or their developers must go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The zoning process includes several steps with the both the PCDC and the trustees.

“To me, Lyons is a unique jewel in Boulder County, with a distinct character, because of the people who live there,” Duvall said.

“There’s a lot of community involvement,” she said, also mentioning a perseverance. “People are working together after the flood, despite what can be seen as setbacks to getting housing. It seems to be a great group of people to work with.”

Habitat for Humanity reminders: application orientation Jan. 27

Volunteers for construction of the three Habitat for Humanity duplexes on Park Street, west of 2nd Ave will be needed starting Jan. 24, on four construction days per week: Wednesdays through Saturdays. You can sign up at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction.

And the third round of homeowner applications for those homes begins this month with an orientation on Jan. 27. All who are interested in applying in the third round of applications need to attend an orientation session either in person at Rogers Hall on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 10 a.m., or complete an online orientation at www.stvrainhabitat.org between Jan. 15-30. For information about orientation or the selection process contact Erin Minaya at 303-682-2485, ext. 104 or eminaya@stvrainhabitat.org.

This column is a monthly commentary (opinion column) in the Redstone Review about affordable housing after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, contact me directly at areinholds@hotmail.com. For history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons – including a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes that was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in 2015, and the land at 2nd and Park that Habitat for Humanity bought to build three duplexes – read previous columns at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

 

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.

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Habitat for Humanity volunteer days pushed out to Jan. 24

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Published in the January 11, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder, an update from the January 4 edition.

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

Habitat for Humanity volunteer days pushed out to Jan. 24

by Amy Reinholds

The first day to volunteer on Habitat for Humanity homes here in Lyons was pushed out to Jan. 24.

Volunteers who had previously signed up received an email from Stephen Scott, Construction Director for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley last week. “We started getting foundations in late December but because of holidays and the cold weather, the contractors have not been able to pour foundations on schedule,” he wrote. “At this point we are hopeful that we will have a foundation ready to build on by late-January and we will keep you updated on our progress.”

Lyons residents who want to volunteer constructing the three duplexes on Park Street, west of 2nd Ave, can sign up for volunteer days on the Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley website. Volunteers will be needed starting Jan. 24 on four construction days per week: Wednesdays through Saturdays. On the website at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction, after clicking FLOOD REBUILD-LYONS, volunteers can sign up for one or more of the specific days they are available.

This is a very exciting time to work on the first new affordable housing constructed after the September 2013 flood. 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, where 32 families used to live, to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use).

Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley was a partner in a previous proposal for affordable housing in March 2015 that Town of Lyons voters rejected. 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) was voted down 614 to 498 by Lyons voters in March 2015. Despite many challenges, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on the Town of Lyons. Now we can all help the organization by volunteering or donating.

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 2017, the construction plan for public improvements that Habitat for Humanity was required to complete was approved by the Town of Lyons engineering staff.

At the 4 year anniversary of the flood in September 2017, Habitat for Humanity held a site-blessing and ground-breaking ceremony on the land that was geared toward the local Lyons community. This Saturday, there is a public ground blessing ceremony open to the public: Jan. 13, at 3 p.m. meet at the intersection of Park Street and 2nd Avenue to celebrate the beginning of construction of Habitat’s Park Street Development in Lyons.

During the fall, Habitat for Humanity continued work to select contractors to do the public improvement infrastructure work and the foundations of the three duplexes, and worked with the Town of Lyons and the Lyons Fire Protection District for required building permits for the homes. The foundation work began the week of Dec. 18, but because of weather, all the foundations weren’t poured until this week. At least a week is required for the concrete to cure.

Homeowner application orientation Jan. 27

Also don’t forget to spread the word that the third round of homeowner applications begins in January. All who are interested in applying need to attend an orientation session either in person at Rogers Hall in Lyons on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 10 a.m., or complete an online orientation at www.stvrainhabitat.org between Jan. 15-30.

In the previous rounds, applicants were selected for three out of the six homes to be built in Lyons, and the application round starting in January is for the remaining three homes. Anyone whose applications weren’t accepted in previous rounds can participate in round three but must attend the orientation either in person or online.

The preference policy still remains the same order in this round of applications. First preference for the new homes is 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. 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 of the six homes, and all are in the first preference category.

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. 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.

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.

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.

Trustees to hear report about eastern corridor affordable housing and aquaponics farm proposal on Jan. 16

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

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

Trustees to hear report about eastern corridor affordable housing and aquaponics farm proposal on Jan. 16

by Amy Reinholds

The selection committee for the request for proposals (RFP) decided to move forward on a recommendation for a proposal from a group that wants to build affordable housing and an aquaponics farm on town-owned land east of Colo. Hwy. 66 and U.S. 36. According to Town of Lyons Director of Community Development Paul Glasgow, the committee plans to make an official report to the Lyons Board of Trustees on Jan. 16. (The regular meeting was changed from Jan. 15 to Jan. 16 because of the Martin Luther King Day holiday.)

The application for the Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP proposes buying town-owned land and building 45 affordable housing units for rent, an aquaponics farm and grocery, and a commercial kitchen. The partnership that submitted the RFP includes the regional affordable housing non-profit Thistle, a developer who has worked in the Denver Highlands neighborhood and on a local greenhouse, and Donna Merten of Colorado Group, who is interested in aquaponics farming.

At a previous workshop with trustees on Dec. 4, Glasgow reported that this proposal was the most detailed proposal out of two received. Lyons Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen and Glasgow said that the other application was only two pages, proposing a storage facility and workshop space for local businesses that are interested in moving from another part of the community.

This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 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. The land has been annexed into town, and the part that is for sale is currently zoned as agricultural land.

The group’s proposal is for purchasing all the land that Lyons is selling, on both the north and south sides of Hwy. 66. and also mentions a possible hotel or micro-apartments for rent on the south side of Hwy. 66.

Trustees at the Dec. 4 workshop expressed interest in the housing and business combination proposed by the Thistle partnership, and Simonsen and Glasgow said that it appeared to meet the Lyons Comprehensive Plan, the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, and sustainability goals of the town.

The selection committee for the Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP includes Simonsen, Glasgow, Director of Community Relations and Programs Kim Mitchell, and chairs of the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Economic Development Commission (Gregg Oetting and Lora Gilson). The committee met Friday, Dec. 15, and determined to bring forth an official report to the trustees (scheduled for Jan. 16) that recommends the selection of the applications.

As part of regular town process, after the town sells the land, the new owners or their developers will go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The zoning process includes several steps with the both the PCDC and the trustees.

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 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. Demolition of existing buildings for construction of the new public works building started in 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 are available for sale. The Town of Lyons put out an RFP for potential buyers this summer to propose ideas to develop parts or all of the available land. For more details, you can see the Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP (now closed) on the Bid Opportunities page of the Town of Lyons website at www.townoflyons.com/140/Bid-Opportunities. A purchase and a sale contract was originally targeted to be first quarter of 2018.

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.

This proposal sounds promising for those of us interested in seeing more options for affordable housing return to Lyons. Because of the need for rentals for people who can’t afford homes in the current high-priced real estate market, I’m glad to hear that the proposal is for 45 affordable rentals. To learn more about Thistle and the affordable housing the non-profit builds and manages in Boulder and Longmont, see http://thistle.us.

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. 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, where 32 families used to live, to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons – including 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 that was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in 2015, and the land at 2nd and Park that Habitat for Humanity bought to build three duplexes – you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

Trustees vote for county-wide goal of 12 percent of homes affordable for low and middle income

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

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

Trustees vote for county-wide goal of 12 percent of homes affordable for low and middle income

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Board of Trustees voted on Dec. 18 in favor of adopting the Boulder County Housing Partnership’s Regional Housing Strategy. The trustees voted support the overall goal to increase housing stock affordable to low and middle income households by 12 percent across the region by 2035, but they also committed to keeping local goals.

“We should be clear in our resolution that we don’t see this as our limit for the Town of Lyons,” said Trustee Dan Greenberg.

Others agreed. “This should not supersede any community goals already set,” said Mayor Connie Sullivan.

Trustee Barney Dreistadt described a concept of stacking goals. “The county-wide strategy is a county need, on top of what the Town of Lyons identified,” he said. “I see these as stacking goals, which could even get us up to a number of 160 [new affordable housing units] in Lyons, or something like that.”

In the resolution they approved on Dec. 18, the trustees included a reference to their local commitment in the April 2016 Town of Lyons Affordable Housing Resolution goals of 10 percent total housing in town that is affordable to households that earn 80 percent or less of the area median income (see www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/220?fileID=323). They discussed that they might readdress this local percentage in the future, but they are both willing to continue this goal, and to have the Town of Lyons take on additional responsibility in sharing affordable housing goals in the regional plan, “stacked” on top of the local town goal.

The trustees also included a statement in the resolution that the Town of Lyons has the need to continuously renew and review local affordable housing goals, on a regular basis.

I had delivered a report from the Human Services and Aging Commission earlier at that Dec. 18 meeting during the Boards and Commissions Reports section of the agenda. I stated that the commission heard Trustee Wendy Miller’s highlights of a Sept. 29 Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership summit at our October meeting and reviewed content from a draft of the Regional Housing Strategy at www.BoulderCountyHousing.org. The commission voted 5-0 to recommend to the Board of Trustees that the town set a goal of 12 percent housing in the Town of Lyons should be affordable to middle- and low-income households. (The 2017 area median income for a family of four in Boulder County is $98,200, according to the Regional Housing Strategy draft.)

The Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission (which has requested a name change to the Lyons Housing and Human Services Commission) is a volunteer commission that advises the elected Lyons trustees in areas including education, aging issues, health and mental well-being, transportation, social connections, safety net, and economic support.

Before voting, we had reviewed how many homes Lyons currently has that are permanently affordable to middle and low income households. The town has a total of 26 permanently affordable rentals (already in Lyons before the September 2013 flood): eight apartments at Bloomfield Place, twelve apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing, and six apartments at Mountain Gate. Also, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building six permanently affordable homes for sale (3 duplexes) at 2nd and Park Streets. Those 32 affordable homes are only 3.3 percent of the approximate 950 homes currently in Lyons.

Emily Dusel, co-chair of the commission, had expressed concern at our October meeting that if 12 percent affordable housing was spread out across the county, more affordable housing might be prioritized in other larger cities instead, leaving Lyons and Nederland with less than 12 percent added to their local housing stock. Encouraging a goal of 12 percent affordable homes in the Town of Lyons locally would bring the number up to 114 (of the estimated total of 950 homes in Lyons).

I also communicated to the trustees in my Dec. 18 report that the Human Services and Aging commission feels it is important that Lyons remain involved in the collaboration with the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership so that our town does not miss out on opportunities. It was confirmed that both Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen and Director of Community Development Paul Glasgow attend all partnership meetings and will continue to do so.

Homes are considered affordable when monthly rent and utilities for renters, or monthly mortgage and expenses for homeowners, total less than 30 percent of gross monthly income for a household. The 12 percent goal is for homes that are affordable to middle income and low income households. There are helpful examples in the Regional Housing Strategy document of what various middle and low income households can afford. For example, a family of four who makes 60 percent of the area median income earns $58,920 a year. To be affordable to this family, rent should not exceed $1,520 a month, or a mortgage should not exceed $1505 a month. The family can afford purchasing a home valued up to $238,721.

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, where 32 families used to live, 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.

You can see drafts of the Boulder County Regional Affordable Housing Strategic Plan at www.BoulderCountyHousing.org. The timeline of the regional plan is to set goals before the beginning of 2018, to build staff capacity now through 2020, to bolster financial resources now through 2024, to consider the regulatory process now through 2024, the secure land from 2019-2026, and to implement the new affordable housing from 2020-2035.

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.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.

Home sharing programs for elders could also create affordable rentals

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Published in the in the December 14, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Home sharing programs for elders could also create affordable rentals

by Amy Reinholds

Combining preferences to age in place with affordable housing, a non-profit called Neighbor to Neighbor in Fort Collins and Loveland is starting a matching program to help older homeowners rent out parts of their homes to younger people.

The HomeShare program will match homeowners (called home providers), age 55 and older, with people seeking an affordable housing option (called home seekers).

Melissa Frasure, a program manager for housing counseling at Neighbor to Neighbor, said that the HomeShare program is just getting started with a new staff person starting Dec. 11. The new program won’t officially be launched until early 2018.

“HomeShare was brought to us by Larimer County’s Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities,” she said. “It was an idea they had come up with as a priority in the county, and they approached us with the idea.”

Neighbor to Neighbor is a non-profit in Fort Collins and Loveland that started in 1970 when groups of neighbors came together to help a neighbor avoid losing a home. Today, Neighbor to Neighbor provides a wide range of services from preventing homelessness to rental assistance, housing search programs, and home buyer education. Neighbor to Neighbor is also an affordable housing provider with 135 rental units in Fort Collins and Loveland.

The HomeShare process begins with maintaining lists of both home providers age 55 and older and home seekers. Frasure said there will be a free matching service and a free housing counselor for 6 months after the match for both the home providers and the renters. The services include creation of a legal lease and a living agreement for both parties, which will help people who are not experienced landlords get started.

Staff members in the Boulder County Housing and Human Services department know about HomeShare, and I’m following up with the department to see if a similar program is identified as a future goal for Boulder County. A successful model might include a collaboration with non-profits as well as county agencies that provide home-ownership education like Neighbor to Neighbor does.

I also know of two for-profit companies that match elders with renters. Silvernest is an online roommate-matching service for baby boomers and empty nesters in several metro areas, including the Front Range of Colorado. According to the website, www.silvernest.com, “Homeowners stay in the house they love. Housemates find a lovely new home.” Unlike the HomeShare program at Neighbor to Neighbor, there is a fee of $29.99 for three months that includes verifying housemates, background screening requests, eviction history reports, compatibility matching, lease templates, and automatic rent payments, according to the website.

Also, a new app that has received media attention in recent months is Nesterly, created by two graduates of MIT’s masters program in urban planning. Nesterly is currently operating a pilot program in Boston but considering expanding to other cities in the next year. The app was a grand prize winner in the 2017 NYC BigApps competition. According to the website, www.nesterly.io, “Nesterly is a digital community that enables households with extra space to connect with trusted, vetted people who are seeking a place to stay for longer than one month,” and “Renters can exchange help around the house for lower rent.” The website also explains that when a successful match is confirmed, the company charges a one-time fee to both the host and guest, ranging from $95 – $195 depending on the length of the stay. Nesterly also charges a monthly service fee of 2 percent for the host and guest to facilitate automated rental payments and ongoing support throughout the length of the match.

I’ve contacted both Silvernest and Nesterly, but have not heard back from either company yet. Neither of these companies provides in-person housing counseling like the non-profit HomeShare program plans to do, and both of the for-profit companies charge fees. It will be interesting to see how all of these models work in the long run, and maybe we can learn what will work best here in Boulder County and in Lyons.

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. 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, where 32 families used to live, to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons – including 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) that was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in March 2015, and the land at 2nd and Park that Habitat for Humanity bought to build 3 duplexes – you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

Shifting focus from ourselves to others

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Published in the December 13, 2017, edition of the Redstone Review.

COMMENTARY: AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN LYONS

Shifting focus from ourselves to others

By Amy Reinholds
Affordable Housing Columnist
Redstone Review

LYONS – When I review the activities surrounding affordable housing in Lyons in the past few months, I see a theme: Success comes when we can shift focus from ourselves to others. As we reflect on 2017, celebrate holidays, and begin the new year, it’s an appropriate time to think about how to make this shift.

Sign up now to volunteer on Lyons Habitat for Humanity construction in January

Lyons community members who want to volunteer constructing the three duplexes on Park Street, west of 2nd Ave, can now sign up for volunteer days on the Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley website at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction. Volunteers will be needed starting in late January, on four construction days per week: Wednesdays through Saturdays. These are the days I was hoping and waiting for in past years when drama and arguments filled Facebook discussion groups. [According to an email update from Construction Director Stephen Scott to volunteers on Jan. 3, “We started getting foundations in late December but because of holidays and the cold weather, the contractors have not been able to pour foundations on schedule. At this point we are hopeful that we will have a foundation ready to build on by late-January and we will keep you updated on our progress.”]

Not able to volunteer? You can donate funds to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley specifically for the Lyons construction: www.stvrainhabitat.org/online-donations.

Also in January, the third round of homeowner applications begins. In the previous rounds, applicants were selected for three out of the six homes to be built in Lyons, and the application round starting in January is for the remaining three homes. All who are interested in applying need to attend an orientation session either in person at Rogers Hall in Lyons on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 10 a.m., or complete an online orientation at http://www.stvrainhabitat.org between Jan. 15-30. Anyone whose applications weren’t accepted in previous rounds can participate in round three but must attend the orientation either in person or online.

The preference policy still remains the same order in this round of applications. First preference for the new homes is 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. 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. The three applicants selected in previous rounds are all are in the first preference category.

Read more on this topic in my previous column: Sign up to volunteer on Lyons Habitat homes in January.  

Don’t stop dreaming about creative options on the eastern part of town

One of the applications for a request for proposals (RFP) to buy town-owned land east of Colo. Hwy. 66 and U.S. 36 proposes building 45 affordable housing units for rent, as well as an aquaponics farm and grocery, and a commercial kitchen. Paul Glasgow, Town of Lyons Planner and Director of Community Development, reported to the Lyons Board of Trustees at Dec. 4 workshop that the most detailed proposal out of two received is from a partnership including the regional affordable housing non-profit Thistle.

The other two partners in the proposal, Glasgow said, are a developer who has worked in the Denver Highlands neighborhood and on a local greenhouse, and Donna Merten of Colorado Group, who is interested in aquaponics farming, based on success in Singapore. The group’s proposal is for purchasing all the land that Lyons is selling, on both the north and south sides of Hwy. 66 (about 4.3 acres on the north side and the 3.28 acres on the south side).

This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 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 Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. The land has been annexed into town, and the part that is for sale is currently zoned as agricultural land.

The proposal is about 90 percent complete, and a selection committee is expected to make a decision soon about next steps. The committee’s recommendation will come before the trustees at a future public meeting (now scheduled for Jan. 16, 2018).

Read more on this topic:  Trustees to hear report about eastern corridor affordable housing and aquaponics farm proposal on Jan. 16

Consider being a landlord

Lyons needs more rentals for people who work in town, especially after losing 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, where 32 families used to live, to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use).

If you are thinking about building a carriage house or a garage apartment, check out the Town of Lyons accessory dwelling unit policy at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units. You might also have a space in your house and are considering renting to a roommate.

Understanding rights, protections, and resources for both tenants and landlords is important. The laws and contracts that define relationships between tenants and landlords can affect the both finances of the individual tenants and landlords and how many homes in a community are affordable to the low and middle-income households who need them.

There are only four Colorado state laws that address landlords and tenants, and the Federal Fair Housing Act. There are no specific ordinances about the tenant-landlord relationship in Town of Lyons code. However, the Lyons Human Services & Aging Commission, a volunteer commission that advises the elected Lyons Board of Trustees, is compiling a list of federal, state, and county links and information resources for tenants and landlords that can be made available on the Town of Lyons website. Examples include the HUD Tenant Rights, Laws, and Protections Colorado page at www.hud.gov/states/colorado/renting/tenantrights and The Colorado Renter’s Guide from the Colorado Apartment Association at www.caahq.org/main/colorado-renters-guide.

Read more on this topic in my previous column: Tenant and landlord rights and resources.

This column is a monthly commentary (opinion column) in the Redstone Review about affordable housing after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons – including 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 that was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in March 2015, and the land at 2nd and Park that Habitat for Humanity bought to build 3 duplexes – read previous columns at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.

 

Group proposes affordable housing, aquaponics farm, commercial kitchen, grocery on eastern corridor

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Published in the December 7, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Group proposes affordable housing, aquaponics farm, commercial kitchen, grocery on eastern corridor

by Amy Reinholds

One of the applications for a request for proposals (RFP) to buy town-owned land east of Colo. Hwy. 66 and U.S. 36 proposes building 45 affordable housing units for rent, as well as an aquaponics farm and grocery, and a commercial kitchen. Paul Glasgow, Town of Lyons Planner and Director of Community Development, reported to the Lyons Board of Trustees at Dec. 4 workshop that the most detailed proposal out of two received is from a partnership including the regional affordable housing non-profit Thistle.

The other two partners in the proposal, Glasgow said, are a developer who has worked in the Denver Highlands neighborhood and on a local greenhouse, and Donna Merten of Colorado Group, who is interested in aquaponics farming, based on success in Singapore. The group’s proposal is for purchasing all the land that Lyons is selling, on both the north and south sides of Hwy. 66.

This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 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. The land has been annexed into town, and the part that is for sale is currently zoned as agricultural land.

Lyons Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen and Glasgow told the trustees at the Dec. 4 workshop that the application from the partnership with Thistle is about 90 percent complete and the group is doing more market analysis. They said the selection committee will meet later this week to complete an evaluation and determine what the next steps are. The other application, they reported, was only two pages, proposing a storage facility and workshop space for local businesses that are interested in moving from another part of the community.

Trustees expressed interest in the housing and business combination proposed by the Thistle partnership, and Simonsen and Glasgow said that it appears to meet the Lyons Comprehensive Plan, the Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan, and sustainability goals of the town. Glasgow said that the proposal also mentions a possible hotel or micro-apartments for rent on the south side of Hwy. 66.

The selection committee includes Simonsen, Glasgow, Director of Community Relations and Programs Kim Mitchell, and chairs of the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Economic Development Commission (Gregg Oetting and Lora Gilson). When the selection committee makes a recommendation, it will come before the trustees at a future public meeting.

As part of regular town process, after the town sells the land, the new owners or their developers will go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The zoning process includes several steps with the both the PCDC and the trustees.

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 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. Demolition of existing buildings for construction of the new public works building started in 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 are available for sale. The Town of Lyons put out an RFP for potential buyers this summer to propose ideas to develop parts or all of the available land. For more details, you can see the Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP (now closed) on the Bid Opportunities page of the Town of Lyons website at www.townoflyons.com/140/Bid-Opportunities. Interviews with highest-ranked developers were planned in November, and purchase and a sale contract was originally targeted to be first quarter of 2018.

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.

This proposal is good news for those of us interested in seeing more options for affordable housing return to Lyons. Because of the need for affordable rentals for people who can’t buy homes in this market, I’m also glad to hear that the proposal is for rentals. To learn more about Thistle and the affordable housing the non-profit builds and manages in Boulder and Longmont, see http://thistle.us.

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. 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, where 32 families used to live, to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons – including 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 that was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in March 2015, and the land at 2nd and Park that Habitat for Humanity bought to build 3 duplexes – you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

Sign up to volunteer on Lyons Habitat homes in January

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Published in the November 23, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Sign up to volunteer on Lyons Habitat homes in January

Lyons residents who want to volunteer constructing the three duplexes on Park Street, west of 2nd Ave, can now sign up for volunteer days on the Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley website.

Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley now has all final building permits from the Town of Lyons, and excavation and the pouring the foundations is expected to take 3 to 4 weeks, according to Executive Director David Emerson. Volunteers will be needed starting January 10, 2018, on four construction days per week: Wednesdays through Saturdays. Volunteers can sign up at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction for the specific days they are available.

[According to an email update from Construction Director Stephen Scott to volunteers on Jan. 3, “We started getting foundations in late December but because of holidays and the cold weather, the contractors have not been able to pour foundations on schedule. At this point we are hopeful that we will have a foundation ready to build on by late-January and we will keep you updated on our progress.”]

Also in January, the third round of homeowner applications begins. In the previous rounds, applicants were selected for three out of the six homes to be built in Lyons, and the application round starting in January is for the remaining three homes. All who are interested in applying need to attend an orientation session either in person at Rogers Hall in Lyons on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 10 a.m., or complete an online orientation at www.stvrainhabitat.org between Jan. 15-30. Anyone whose applications weren’t accepted in previous rounds can participate in round three but must attend the orientation either in person or online.

The preference policy still remains the same order in this round of applications. First preference for the new homes is 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. 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 of the six homes, and all are in the first preference category.

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.

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.

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 2017, the construction plan for public improvements that Habitat for Humanity was required to complete was approved by the Town of Lyons engineering staff. At the 4 year anniversary of the flood in September 2017, Habitat for Humanity held a site-blessing and ground-breaking ceremony on the land. During the fall, Habitat for Humanity continued work to select contractors to do the public improvement infrastructure work and the foundations of the three duplexes, and worked with the Town of Lyons and the Lyons Fire Protection District for required building permits for the homes.

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. 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, where 32 families used to live, to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons – including 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 that was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in March 2015 – you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

 

Tenant and landlord rights and resources

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Published in the November 16, 2017,  edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Tenant and landlord rights and resources

by Amy Reinholds

Relationships between tenants and landlords, and the laws and contracts that define these relationships, can affect both the finances of the individual tenants and landlords, but also how many homes in a community are affordable to the low and middle-income households who need them. If we want to look at affordable housing at a national or local level, understanding rights, protections, and resources for both tenants and landlords is one of the tools to understand possible solutions.

I recently finished reading Evicted by Matthew Desmond, and I also attended a November landlord training event held by City of Longmont Community and Neighborhood Resources that gave a helpful overview of some of our local Colorado laws and resources in Boulder County.

There are only four Colorado state laws that address landlords and tenants, Susan Spaulding, Community Relations Specialist with the City of Longmont, explained in her presentation “The Landlord/Tenant Relationship: A User’s Guide.” Colorado Revised Statute 13-40-101 addresses Forcible Entry and Detainer, or evictions. C.R.S. 38-12-102 covers security deposits. C.R.S 38-12-505 addresses Warrant of Habitability, and C.R.S. 38-20-116 covers abandoned property. Even though the state law defines the eviction process, the eviction court is part of Boulder County court.

There is also the Federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it unlawful for a landlord to discriminate by refusing to rent based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, familial status, or disability, or by negotiating terms, conditions or privileges different from other tenants based on those characteristics. For example, Spaulding told landlords that if they screen or run background checks on an individual tenant, they should do it for all tenants. Colorado state law also provides protections against discrimination based on ancestry, creed, marital status, and sexual orientation.

Beyond those federal and state statutes, the only other way to define the tenant and landlord relationship is through the lease contract, Spaulding said. She said that because the lease is the core of the relationship, both tenants and landlords should make sure they know and understand all the details of the lease that they sign.

“There is no such thing as a standard lease,” Spaulding said. The State of Colorado doesn’t require landlords use a particular lease, and the lease can define a wide range of requirements that the tenant and landlord both agree to when signing that lease. “There is no law that says a landlord can’t raise rent every year or that a landlord can’t enter the property,” she said. “The core of the tenant-landlord relationship is contractual.”

Spaulding described specifics related to the state laws, and also shared best practices for landlords, including clauses to include in a lease. To start off, she highlighted the unique goals and views of landlords and tenants. Landlords view the rental unit as an asset and the relationship as a commercial business, and tenants view the rental unit as a home, and the relationship as a personal negotiation for a place to live. “For the tenant, it’s an emotional investment, not just a financial investment,” she said.

Under the Warranty of Habitability state law, tenant responsibilities are to only let those listed on the lease live there, to use the premises in a safe and clean manner, and to not damage the premises. The landlord responsibilities are that the residential premises is fit for habitation, and the landlord is providing a functional bundle of services with the premises, maintaining them in working order. Spaulding said the law is really written for landlords and doesn’t benefit tenants other than providing a way they can leave and break the lease if they follow all required steps to properly notify landlords two times of the uninhabitable condition, and the landlord has not responded.

Under the state law about security deposits, landlords can keep all or a portion of the security deposit for unpaid rent owed, cleaning charges that were agreed to in the lease, damages beyond normal wear and tear, any other breach of the leases agreement that causes financial damage to the landlord, such as unpaid utility bills.

Under the state law about evictions, landlords must obtain a Writ of Restitution from the eviction court to forcibly remove tenants. They cannot do it on their own by changing the locks or shutting off utilities.

Do you want to share your experiences of trying to find affordable housing in Boulder County? There are two online surveys that are open this month collecting data that will inform future policy decisions.

1) The Live/Work Survey: Boulder County, Denver, and Aurora are conducting a study to better understand residents’ housing decisions and their experiences living, working, or going to school in the region. This survey is an important part of that research. Your input will inform decisions regarding housing planning. This survey is not associated with a ballot issue or political poll. It is expected that the survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete, and at the end of the survey you can enter for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card. Responses are completely confidential and will only be reported in combination with other responses. The deadline to complete the survey is November 30: www.surveymonkey.com/r/DAB_AFH2017.

2) Boulder County Community Health Assessment 2017. What do you think Boulder County residents need most in the next five years to live a healthy life – improved mental health or healthy housing? One issue will be selected as the focus for Boulder County Public Health and community partners for the next five years. At www.bouldercounty.org/departments/public-health/community-health-assessment-priority-setting you can review information and graphics that show an overview of the housing and mental health issues facing people living in Boulder County and then cast your vote online. Boulder County also planned to hold a community meeting November 15 to collect in-person votes.

What’s going on here in Lyons? There are no specific ordinances about the tenant-landlord relationship in Town of Lyons code. However, the Lyons Human Services & Aging Commission, a volunteer commission that advises the elected Lyons Board of Trustees, is compiling a list of federal, state, and county links and information resources for tenants and landlords that can be made available on the Town of Lyons website. For example, the HUD Tenant Rights, Laws, and Protections Colorado page at www.hud.gov/states/colorado/renting/tenantrights, The Colorado Renter’s Guide from the the Colorado Apartment Association at www.caahq.org/main/colorado-renters-guide, and Frequently Asked Questions for landlords about Section 8 vouchers at www.bouldercounty.org/families/housing/frequently-asked-questions/#landlordsfaq.

Resources related to housing rights/discrimination are the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center at www.dmfhc.org, the Colorado Civil Rights Division at www.colorado.gov/pacific/dora/civil-rights/housing-discrimination, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition at www.ccdconline.org, and Colorado Legal Aid at coloradolegalservices.org. There are also free legal clinics at the Longmont Senior Center, 910 Longs Peal Avenue, four times a year. The next two are November 28 and February 27, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

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. 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, where 32 families used to live, to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons – including 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 that was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in March 2015, and the land at 2nd and Park that Habitat for Humanity bought to build 3 duplexes – you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

No decisions yet on incentives for affordable housing during annexation

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Published in the November 9, 2017,  edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

No decisions yet on incentives for affordable housing during annexation

by Amy Reinholds

Although trustees discussed adding possible incentives for affordable housing to a town annexation policy at a workshop on Monday, the Lyons Board of Trustees is no closer to arriving at a decision than in October.


The conversation about changes to annexation requirements goes much deeper than incentivizing affordable housing, and no decisions on changes of any kind to the annexation process were made at during previous Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 16. The trustees wanted to continue the public hearing on changes to annexation requirements to a Dec. 4 meeting, and scheduled the workshop on Monday, Nov. 6 to gather more information.


“The spirit of this ordinance is to slow growth,” Mayor Connie Sullivan said at the workshop. “People want to know that development will be controlled.” But Sullivan said some of the parcels that are requested to be annexed might be larger than 5 acres but not have 5 developable acres because of geographic or other constraints. The board had talked about a previous citizen petition nearly two decades ago related to annexation requests by developers of large, high-end residential neighborhoods, which influenced the town’s current annexation ordinance. It triggers a Town of Lyons election at the end of an annexation process if the total land parcel is larger than 5 acres, but size of the proposed development itself is not considered.

By the time the trustees listed actions for the town planner and town attorney during the regular part of the Nov. 6 meeting, they were able identify the following requests for more information and drafts of possible changes to annexation policy to bring back in December:

  • An annexation ordinance that is as simple as possible, so that the public, including landowners who apply to annex, can easily understand it.
  • A statement that explains that the board is under no obligation to approve an annexation just because the property requested to be annexed meets a specific exemption for a town election. (There is still an independent annexation approval process that involves multiple public hearings and reviews with the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission and the trustees.)
  • A possible option to increase size of annexations that require voter approval in a Town of Lyons election to 10 acres.
  • A possible requirement that only 5 acres of a parcel that is exempt from an election can be developable, and remaining acres must have a lower-impact zoning (with a 10-year moratorium on rezoning).
  • A possible exemption of parcels greater that 10 acres if half of the parcel is already encumbered as non-developable.
  • A possible exemption for affordable housing with higher-density R2 and R3 zoning.

We’ll find out more on these annexation requirements, and if they can encourage affordable housing, at future meetings of the trustees this month and next.

The previous Board of Trustees passed an affordable housing resolution in April 2016, specifying a goal of 10 percent 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. Also, based on a Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership plan that is in progress, the town is also considering raising the goal of affordable housing to 12 percent of all Town of Lyons housing units.

Affordable means that a middle or low income household spends no more than a third of household income on housing costs, either rent or mortgage. The town has a total of 26 permanently affordable rentals (already in Lyons before the September 2013 flood): eight apartments at Bloomfield Place, twelve apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing, and six apartments at Mountain Gate. Also, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building six permanently affordable homes for sale (3 duplexes) at 2nd and Park Streets. Those 32 affordable homes are only 3.3 percent of the approximate 950 homes in Lyons.

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, where 32 families used to live, 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 new permanently affordable homes are planned. Plans for three new accessory dwelling units (carriage houses or garage apartments) have been approved in town, but the rent will be market rate, which means that it is not prevented from rising in the future.

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.