Farewell for now? The future is nearly here

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Published in the May, 14, 2020, edition of the Lyons Recorder

I started writing this column for the new online Lyons Recorder in January 2020, not knowing what the year would bring. But I had been writing about affordable housing since 2015 in the print edition and the Redstone Review, and I had experience from the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force that started up at the end of 2013 in the aftermath of the destructive flooding that changed Lyons forever.

Looking back, I collected some lessons learned at the three-year anniversary of the flood in a column in the September 8, 2016, print edition of the Lyons Recorder. Here are a few that are surprisingly relevant today:

  • Affordable housing takes a long time, and it’s not easy. But nothing happens at all if no one tries in the first place, or if no one perseveres. In the nearly four years since I wrote this observation, we have finally seen all six Habitat for Humanity homes completed on Park Street and local families purchasing those homes. We have also seen final approval of a plan for 40 affordable rentals in Lyons Valley Park for households at 60 percent of the area median income, and an announcement that the land has been purchased to build those 21 townhomes and 19 single-family homes. Eight new market-rate detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have been approved since the flood. Utility connection fees on these ADUs are waived for the property owners to encourage them to offer long-term rentals at the lower end of the market. Thankfully, town leaders passed ordinances that these ADUs must be used for long-term renters and not short-term vacation rentals for tourists. This will provide some help and protection for workers in local businesses who want to rent in the same town where they work.. There’s still more work to be done to keep ADU rentals affordable, but this is a good start.
  • We can’t rely on Facebook posts for factual information. Like accepting rumors heard on the street, believing Facebook posts as gospel truth causes misinformation and strife. In 2015-2016, Lyons community social media arguments focused on a special election to build Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and Habitat for Humanity for-sale homes in part of Bohn Park. The referendum failed. Today, local Facebook groups host arguments about safety, caring for others, personal freedom, and the economy at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. To actually get things done in 2016, we had to turn away from the lure of social media pontificating and put our energy into the actual work.
  • “Lead, follow, or get out of the way!” I saw this motto on a plaque at a 2016 event honoring LaVern Johnson, who has devoted decades to serving on Town of Lyons boards and commissions. The good news in 2020 is Mrs. LaVern is still here in Lyons actively promoting causes she is passionate about, albeit via Zoom meetings currently. She attends virtually to keep track of what the Lyons Board of Trustees is doing and to give her historically valuable input. Just like in 2016, or in decades before, when she was raising her children and championing a new Parks and Recreation department in town, there’s a natural tendency to proclaim that something needs to get done, but it is someone else’s job. We naturally want to blame others when events don’t unfold the way we think they should. I have found that people who are passionate about initiatives should take the lead, and those who aren’t willing to devote the time and energy should accept the leaders who step forward. There’s always room for others to sit at the table and debate the direction, but they have to be willing to devote the time to do so. Now, although all the meetings are virtual, there are still empty seats on boards and commissions waiting for volunteers.

We still face many other affordable housing issues, such as aging in place, and a home sharing approach for elders who have extra rooms in their homes but need help with home or yard tasks. (This might need to be reexamined in the time of physical distancing.) But our community has a lot to be encouraged about in terms of what has already been accomplished. In 2018, I walked home from a Summit Housing Group question and answer session at Lyons Middle and High School focused on an early version of the proposal for Lyons Valley Park. I wondered if in a few years I would be walking through the neighborhood and see new residents of affordable rental homes who were biking with their children or gathering at their community room for an event. The gathering for an event in a community room seems a foreign concept right now, but I’m so glad that it will be possible some day. That evening in 2018, as I walked on Second Avenue, completion of the Habitat for Humanity buildings seemed so far away, even though 112 Park Street was already under construction. When the final Habitat building was completed last month, I rejoiced in front of my computer, watching a video of new homeowners opening their doors.

A few months ago, I talked to a Lyons Valley Park homeowner who was concerned about safety for her kids with speeding traffic in the neighborhood. I mentioned that the new residents who would move into the neighborhood in Summit’s proposed buildings would probably include other moms with kids who ride bikes, and who also care about traffic safety in the neighborhood. It’s an opportunity for more caring neighbors who are part of the community to get involved in making the neighborhood better for everyone, just like the families who bought the Habitat for Humanity townhomes, or people who rent in town now. Lyons has a history of volunteers working to make the community a better place to live, from Mrs. LaVern to young parents of today, families of all sizes, couples, and single people of all age groups who work together.

In less than a month, my husband and I will be leaving Lyons after nearly 17 years, moving away for an out-of-state job. Just like people who volunteer on town advisory boards step down when they move away from Lyons, I am stepping down from writing this affordable housing column for the Lyons Recorder. It’s a good stopping point. So much has been accomplished, compared to the disheartening moments, setbacks, and delays faced over the past six and a half years since the flood. Despite the challenges, the Lyons community pulled together, individually and collectively, for healing and resilience after the flood.

It’s a bright future for affordable housing in Lyons if this collaboration continues. I look forward to learning what happens in Lyons in the years to come.

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Amy Reinholds is an affordable housing columnist for the Lyons Recorder and the Redstone Review. She served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She served on the Lyons Human Services & Aging Commission (later renamed to the Lyons Housing & Human Services Commission) from December 2014 through May 2020. She lived in the Town of Lyons from August 2003 through May 2020 and in the Boulder County area near Lyons in 1995-2003. For a history of her affordable housing columns in local newspapers, see her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com

Summit moves forward with land purchase

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Published in the May, 7, 2020, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Summit moves forward with land purchase

By Amy Reinholds

Summit Housing Group closed on purchasing land from Keith Bell in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision, Town Planner Paul Glasgow reported at a Lyons Board of Trustees online meeting this Monday. Last month, the Board of Trustees approved a Development Plan Agreement from Summit for 21 townhomes and 19 existing platted single-family-home lots. All will be affordable rentals for households at 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), required and monitored through federal funding programs.

“They closed on purchase of land at the end of April. They are now the owners of the land,” Glasgow told Mayor Nick Angelo and the Board of Trustees, during a report from the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) at the May 4 meeting. Since the end of 2019, Summit had been under contract with Bell to purchase both Tract A of Filing No. 8 for 21 townhomes and 19 existing platted single-family-home lots in the subdivision. Earlier agreements were focused on just purchasing Tract A for multifamily buildings. Summit first started the endeavor to buy land in Lyons Valley Park to build affordable housing more than two years ago.

All of the approval steps for the townhomes on Tract A were completed at a March 10 PCDC meeting and an April 13 Board of Trustees meeting. The approved development plan for “Lyons Valley Townhomes” on Tract A is for a total of 21 townhomes in five buildings: four two-story fourplex buildings and one two-story fiveplex building. All townhomes are two bedrooms.

At the online meeting on Monday, Glasgow said that Summit was preparing final versions of their documents prior to submitting a building permit. Summit has been meeting regularly with Glasgow and N-Line, the electric utility contractor for the Town of Lyons, Glasgow reported. He said he expected Summit will submit for the building permit in the next week or two.

The 19 single-family-home lots, like all other already platted single-family-home lots in town, don’t require a development plan like the multifamily Tract A, but they are subject to the typical Town of Lyons building permit process. For both the townhomes on Tract A and the single-family homes, an affordability covenant is required for 35 years by the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program and Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds that Summit received. The LIHTC and CDBG-DR funding both include extensive oversight.

Summit, based in Montana, is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. All rents for the Lyons Valley Townhomes and the 19 single-family homes must be set as affordable for households at 60 percent of the AMI or less. Charts for Boulder County presented at the PCDC meeting showed 60 percent AMI as an annual income of $47,000 for a single person, $54,540 for a two-person household, $61,380 for a three-person household, and $68,160 for a four-person household. Although Summit will probably not be able to take rental applications until construction is well underway, the property management website for Summit buildings shows what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit, including rental homes in Longmont.

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Home Together creative challenge

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Published in the April 30, 2020, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Home Together creative challenge

By Amy Reinholds
The Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership, the group behind the Home Wanted website, is calling on community members to participate in the Home Together project, a community-wide creativity contest during the stay-at-home time of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s another way to look at the intersection of housing and community in Boulder County.

I first found out about the Home Wanted initiative in Boulder County at the Squeezed Out conference last fall. Home Wanted says that communities are healthier when people can live where they work, and that affordable housing helps businesses attract and retain workers. Individuals, organizations, and businesses who want to help adopt new strategies, implement policies, and secure funding for sustainable affordable housing are encouraged to sign up at homewanted.org.

The message of this spring’s “Home Together” project is, “We are all at home, but we are still a community.”

The Home Together projects asks that you share what being home together means to you, your family, your neighbors, your community. The project is hoping to get a lot of submissions, of all types, in both English and Spanish, from residents, families, and youth of all ages. Submissions will come from across Boulder County, and the Lyons community in particular is invited to participate. Submissions are due May 30, and there will be a community Facebook Live unveiling ceremony in June.

You don’t have to be an artist to submit. The format can be visual art, storytelling, photography, songwriting, video, multimedia, or any means of expression.

Some ideas on the Home Together page include:
– Draw a picture of the space you call home.
– Write a story about the view outside your kitchen window.
– Submit a photograph capturing the feeling of being “Home Together.”
– Interview elders in your community about how “home” has changed during their lifetime.
– Submit your best “homemade” recipe.
– Write a song of togetherness or hope.

The website explains, “The collected submissions will be published as a digital community storybook, documenting our shared experience of being Home Together during this uncertain time.”

With all we have been through in Lyons since the destruction of the September 2013 flood, there are many fascinating stories of resilience here. Despite the challenges, we have good news, like the Final Habitat for Humanity building completed on Park Street. And Lyons has a creative and talented community. I can’t wait to see all the contributions from Lyons!

Final Habitat for Humanity building completed on Park Street

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Published in the April 23, 2020, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Final Habitat for Humanity building completed on Park Street

By Amy Reinholds

Bringing Habitat for Humanity homes to Lyons was a long journey that started in 2014, after the devastating flooding that destroyed nearly 100 homes in town the previous fall. Six years later, during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the third and final Habitat for Humanity duplex building was completed at Second Avenue and Park Street, and the families who purchased those two townhomes received their keys. The term “stay-at-home” now has a different meaning for these new homeowners, despite the strange times we live in.

In March, after the State of Colorado Stay-at-Home order to prevent spread of the virus was issued, Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, said that volunteering was suspended but that Habitat staff were continuing to work because construction (and specifically construction of affordable housing) is considered “essential.” “Fortunately, our own staff are able to keep building, even if we’re not comfortable hosting volunteers–especially with mostly indoor work,” she said.

A couple of weeks ago, Executive Director David Emerson said they were getting close to complete. “There may be a subcontractor finishing up the landscaping, but we should have a Certificate of Occupancy any day now as we finished inspections and punch lists.” Emerson gave periodic video updates from the building sites. Then on April 17, Habitat for Humanity posted this short video celebration announcement. I hope that when it is safe for group celebration events again, we can all look forward to a neighborhood picnic.

Lyons has lost about 76 to 94 homes since the September 2013 flood. These were homes not rebuilt either because of government buy-out programs that preserve the land as open space or because of the rezoning of one of the former mobile home parks to commercial use as an event and lodging venue. In March 2015, a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rental homes and some Habitat for Humanity affordable for-sale homes (a combined total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. But Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on the Town of Lyons, continuing the discussion about possible available land and eventually purchasing the land at Second and Park from Craig Ferguson and his Planet Bluegrass partners in the fall of 2016–enough land for three duplex buildings, a total of six homes.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. Mortgages for the Lyons homes are about $150,000 (depending on some custom options). Monthly mortgage payments including taxes and insurance range from about $650 to $850 for the homeowners in Lyons, depending on income and household size.

Starting in January 2018, volunteers–from Lyons and communities across the region–worked seven days a week on constructing three duplex buildings at 112, 114, and 116 Park Street.

Applicants to purchase all six of the Lyons homes were selected by April 2018, and several friends and family members helped donate volunteer hours over the past year to count toward each household’s “sweat equity.” All Habitat for Humanity homeowners complete about 250 volunteer hours per adult in each household, which includes attending financial and home-ownership classes, as well as working on construction of their own and their neighbors’ homes, or working at the Habitat ReStore.

The preference policy gave first preference to applicants who maintained their primary residence in the Lyons area (80540 zip code) at the time of the flood and were displaced. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference was for applicants at 60% of area median income or below. The permanently affordable restriction means that homeowners who sell their homes in the future must sell to qualified buyers who are in that same income range.

The first duplex at 112 Park Street was completed in April 2019, and the second duplex at 116 Park Street was completed by August 2019.

Representatives from some of the six families who were selected to purchase Habitat for Humanity homes participated in the groundbreaking ceremony in January 2018.
The third Habitat for Humanity duplex building was the last to be completed at Second and Park. Because of the larger footprint, with an additional bedroom on the ground floor, the foundation was added after the other two buildings.
The dedication ceremony for the second Habitat for Humanity duplex, at the end of July 2019. 

Trustees complete final steps for affordable rentals in Lyons Valley Park

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Published in the April 16, 2020, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Trustees complete final steps for affordable rentals in Lyons Valley Park

By Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Board of Trustees unanimously approved a Development Plan Agreement with Summit Housing Group at an April 13 virtual meeting, the final step in multiple approval processes for 40 affordable rentals in the Lyons Valley Park Subdivision. Summit is under contract with landowner Keith Bell to purchase both Tract A of Filing No. 8 for 21 townhomes and 19 existing platted single-family-home lots in the subdivision. All will be affordable rentals for households at 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), required and monitored through federal funding programs. The funding comes from the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program and also the federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds.

An affordability covenant for the site is required for a minimum of 35 years, based on both the LIHTC and CDBG-DR funding requirements and oversight. Rusty Snow, president of Summit Housing Group, told the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) during the March 10 Development Plan Review that Summit typically looks at re-syndicating the tax credits and extending the affordability period another 30 years. In May 2019, the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) approved tax credits and bonds for Summit’s proposal. In February 2019, the State of Colorado Housing Board approved Summit’s application for CDBG-DR funds (at a maximum of $100,000 per home, $4 million total for 40 total rental homes). In the Town of Lyons, Summit will be paying all required development fees, impact fees, and connection fees, and won’t receive any tax breaks for the development.

The agreement (the amended Subdivision Improvement Agreement for Lyons Valley Park Filing 8) spells out the water share dedication requirements for Summit to purchase for the 40 homes to be built: either 49 Lake McIntosh water credits, or 35 Colorado Big Thompson water shares. Water share prices vary based on availability and market prices. The agreement also includes requirements for Summit to provide infrastructure such as electrical service, public improvements, and landscaping. Mayor Connie Sullivan said this will reduce the costs to the town, and is an improvement on the previous Subdivision Improvement Agreement.

Snow said Summit is closing on the purchase and will take title to the land at the end of April. He said future steps include a building permit and creating a process for funding with CHFA. Snow said that Summit hopes to start construction this summer. “We were shooting for beginning of June, but it will probably be the beginning of July,” he said.

The 19 single-family homes are on lots already platted and entitled, requiring only standard building permits like elsewhere in town. For the 21 multifamily buildings, called ‘Lyons Valley Townhomes’ on Tract A of Filing No. 8, there was an earlier step on March 10 where the PCDC held a public hearing, reviewing the Development Plan application and listening to comments from the public and a presentation from Summit. The PCDC approved the development plan for the 21 townhomes, all with two bedrooms. At their April 13 meeting, the Board of Trustees also did an appeal to review the March 10 PCDC decision, and voted unanimously to uphold it. The board asked questions for clarification about processes the PCDC took for the Development Plan Review and heard comments from the public. The Board of Trustees passed Resolution 2020-65 with some amendments to Whereas statements.

The plan approved by the PCDC and upheld by the Board of Trustees shows five buildings: four two-story fourplex buildings and one two-story fiveplex building. The PCDC approval came with more than a dozen conditions, including required bike parking of at least one per home, electric vehicle charging stations, enclosed storage units for each home, an easement to allow access from Carter Drive to the adjacent 12993 N. Foothills Highway property and easements for town utilities, bear-proof trash receptacles, and a detention pond concept to be added and implemented in the development plan to prepare for a 100-year stormwater event, approved by a town engineer before a building permit is granted. The PCDC commissioners also added a prohibition against short-term vacation rentals in the lease agreements as a condition. The conditions came from concerns from neighbors, PCDC commissioners, and consulting agencies such as the Lyons Ecology Board and the Lyons Utilities and Engineering Board.

Summit Housing Group, based in Montana, specializes in developing and managing low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. At the March 10 PCDC meeting, Snow showed a chart for area median income (AMI) for Boulder County that showed 60 percent AMI as an annual income of $47,000 for a single person, $54,540 for a two-person household, $61,380 for a three-person household, and $68,160 for a four-person household. Rents for the 21 townhomes and 19 single family homes will be set to be affordable at those income levels. Although Summit will probably not be able to take rental applications until construction is underway, the property management website for Summit buildings shows what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit, including homes in Longmont. For the Summit rentals in Lyons, people displaced in the 2013 flood will have preference, followed by people who work in Lyons (similar to the preference policy that Habitat for Humanity used for applicants to purchase their homes).

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Land in Lyons Valley Park Subdivision

Summit Housing Group, based in Missoula, Mt., is under contract with landowner Keith Bell to purchase land in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision, intending to build 11 single-family homes on already platted lots and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on Lyons Valley Park Tract A of Filing 8 (about 3.82 acres). All of those proposed 40 rental homes must be affordable for households at 60 percent of the area median or less, required by the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funding that Summit plans to use.

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Updates on Summit, Habitat, and ADUs

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Updates on Summit, Habitat, and ADUs

COMMENTARY: Affordable Housing in Lyons

Published in the April 15, 2020, edition of the Redstone Review.

By Amy Reinholds
Redstone Review

LYONS – While we are sheltering at home during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic under the Colorado governor’s executive order, decisions about housing in the Town of Lyons still continue. Updates this month include affordable rentals subsidized and monitored by federal funding programs; the final Habitat for Humanity duplex, which is affordable home ownership funded by federal funds, non-profit dollars, and volunteer hours; and accessory dwelling units, lower-cost yet market-rate rentals.

 

Affordable rentals in Lyons Valley Park

The Lyons Board of Trustees approved a development plan agreement with Summit Housing Group at an April 13 virtual meeting, the final step in multiple approval processes for 40 affordable rentals in the Lyons Valley Park Subdivision.

Summit is under contract with landowner Keith Bell to purchase both Tract A of Filing No. 8 for 21 townhomes, and 19 existing platted single-family-home lots in the subdivision, all affordable rentals to households at 60 percent of the area median income, required and monitored through federal funding programs. The funding comes from the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program and also the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds. An affordability covenant for the site is required for a minimum of 35 years, based on both the LIHTC and Disaster Recovery funding requirements and oversight, and Rusty Snow, president of Summit Housing Group, told the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) during the March 10 Development Plan Review that Summit typically looks at re-syndicating the tax credits and extending the affordability period another 30 years.

In February 2019, the State of Colorado Housing Board approved Summit’s application for CDBG-DR funds (at a maximum of $100,000 per home, $4 million total for 40 total rental homes).

In the Town of Lyons, Summit will be paying all required development fees, impact fees, and connection fees, and won’t receive any tax breaks for the development. The development plan agreement approved April 13, and available on the town website, spells out the water share dedication requirements for the developer (Summit) to purchase for the total 40 homes to be built: either 49 Lake McIntosh water credits or 35 Colorado Big Thompson water shares. The water share prices vary based on availability and market prices. The agreement also describes that requirements for the developer to provide infrastructure like electrical service, public improvements, and landscaping.

The 19 single-family homes are on lots already platted and entitled, requiring only standard building permits like elsewhere in town. For the 21 multifamily buildings, “Lyons Valley Townhomes” on Tract A of Filing No. 8, there was an earlier step on March 10 where the PCDC held a public hearing, reviewing the Development Plan application and listening to comments from the public and a presentation from Summit. The PCDC approved the development plan for the 21 townhomes, all with two bedrooms. The plan shows five buildings: four two-story fourplex buildings and one two-story fiveplex building. The PCDC approval came with more than a dozen conditions, including required bike parking of at least one per home, electric vehicle charging stations, enclosed storage units for each home, an easement to allow access from Carter Drive to the adjacent 12993 N. Foothills Highway property and easements for town utilities, bear-proof trash receptacles, and a detention pond concept to be added and implemented in the development plan to prepare for a 100-year stormwater event, approved by a town engineer before a building permit is granted. The PCDC commissioners also added a prohibition against short-term vacation rentals in the lease agreements as a condition. The conditions came from concerns from neighbors, PCDC commissioners, and consulting agencies such as the Lyons Ecology Board and the Lyons Utilities and Engineering.

 

New homeowners to move into the final Habitat for Humanity duplex soon

The good news from Habitat for Humanity is that the construction on the final duplex building at 114 Park St is completed.

“There may be a subcontractor finishing up the landscaping, but we should have a Certificate of Occupancy any day now as we finished inspections and punch list,” said David Emerson, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. “The families will be moving in any day now.”

Since January 2018, volunteers–from Lyons and communities across the region–have been working weekends and weekdays on constructing three duplex buildings at 112, 114, and 116 Park Street. Applicants were selected to purchase each of the six homes by April 2018, and the process to make Habitat for Humanity homes a reality in Lyons started at least three years before that. The first duplex at 112 Park Street was completed in April 2019, and the second duplex at 116 Park Street was completed in August 2019.

Building Habitat for Humanity to Lyons was a long road that started in 2014. The proposal for Second and Park Streets started in 2015, and we will be forever grateful to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley for not giving up on affordable housing in the Town of Lyons.

 

Two more market-rate ADUs approved

At the April 6 Lyons Board of Trustees meeting, two more accessory dwelling units, also known as ADUs, mother-in-law apartments, or carriage houses, were approved for residential lots in Lyons that already have a main house. One application was for a traditional-style carriage house in back of the lot at 306 Stickney Street. The other was for the first application for a tiny home on wheels ADU at 225 Evans Street, more than a year after tiny homes on wheels were first allowed as ADUs in Town of Lyons code.

Even after the changes were made to town code in 2016 to allow ADUs to share utilities with the main house, there have been only six other ADUs approved in those past four years. Adding eight new market-rate but smaller long-term rental units to Lyons in the six and a half years since the flood is helpful, but it is not an overwhelming success. Our town can do more to ease the affordable rental problem. There are two future changes that we need to see related to the ADU policy that will support safe and affordable rentals in the Town of Lyons.

First, as intended in 2016 with the changed policy that waived the additional utility connect costs, the now estimated 55 non-compliant ADUs in the Town of Lyons need to be brought into the program. This was a need public safety officials expressed so they would know which single family home lots have other households living in the back, to respond appropriately when there are emergencies.

Secondly, I would like to see incentives to property owners who build ADUs to rent at below market rate. Hollie Rogin, elected to the new Board of Trustees in this week’s election, has suggested swapping increased allowable square footage on ADUs for guaranteed limits on rent increases. Over the past two terms, Trustee Miller has stated that she wanted a way for ADU property owners to commit to lower rents, make ADUs affordable to lower-income renters, or agree to take tenants with housing vouchers. However, there was not enough support from other trustees, or implementation ideas from town staff at that time to pursue those requirements. Now that Miller has been reelected to the Board of Trustees in this week’s election, and Rogin is also speaking out in favor of affordability requirements for ADUs, there might be enough momentum for the future board to take this up. I hope to see Miller’s and Rogin’s ideas supported by the next board.

 

 

 

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Housing & Human Services Commission. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. She writes a monthly commentary (opinion column) in the Redstone Review about affordable housing after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. For a history, see previous columns on her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.

Two new ADUs approved in Lyons residential neighborhoods

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Published in the April 9, 2020, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Two new ADUs approved in Lyons residential neighborhoods

By Amy Reinholds

At the April 6 Lyons Board of Trustees meeting, two more accessory dwelling units, also known as ADUs, mother-in-law apartments, or carriage houses, were approved for residential lots in Lyons that already have a main house.

The process for adding ADUs to single-family-home residential lots was created and modified over the past seven years. According to the Town of Lyons ADU ordinance, applicants for all detached ADUs (including tiny homes on wheels) must go through a conditional use review process, including a public hearing for their immediate neighbors and the general public to comment. Homeowners of ADU properties must rent for periods of 30 days or longer (for example, at least a month-to-month lease), and cannot use their properties for short-term vacation rentals. With the two new ADUs approved, there have now been eight new-construction ADUs approved under the town policy since the 2013 flood, and approximately 55 non-compliant ADUs in the Town of Lyons (including allowed historically non-compliant ADUs built before some areas had town zoning) for a total of 63.

Of the two ADUs approved on April 6, one was for a traditional-style carriage house. The property owners of 306 Stickney Street, which is a R-1 zoned lot, applied for a detached ADU to be built in the back of the lot off of the alley. The proposed ADU would be 600 square feet. The application states that design, scale, and color will match the 1,442 square-foot main house on the property.

The Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) reviewed the conditional use application and recommended that the Board of Trustees approve it, with the condition that it add an extra parking space for the ADU. Town Planner Paul Glasgow reported that owners are extending the driveway for an additional parking space. The trustees unanimously approved the ADU.

The other ADU proposed is the first application for a tiny home on wheels ADU, more than a year after tiny homes on wheels were first allowed as ADUs in Town of Lyons code. The property owners of 225 Evans Street, which is an R-2A zoned lot, applied for conditional use review to allow a 275-square-foot tiny home on wheels as an ADU. (The application also included the owner of the tiny home on wheels, who would be a tenant of the property owners.) R-2A zoned lots allow either a second separate house built on the lot (which requires paying utility connection fees) or–as of November 2019–an ADU instead, which can share utilities with the main house.

The tiny home on wheels ADU on Evans Street would replace a barn building currently at the back of the property near the alley described several times in the application document as “dilapidated,” and it would have a much smaller footprint than the barn. According to the conditional use application, all lots on the 200 block of Evans Street are zoned R-2A, and many already have second houses on the lots. The PCDC reviewed the conditional use application and recommended that the Board of Trustees approve it. The PCDC recommended that if there was a need for a secondary electrical utility extension, the applicant would pay for the extension. The Board of Trustees approved this ADU with a 6-1 vote. Trustee Wendy Miller voted against the approval because of the possible historic significance of the barn that would be demolished.

If this plan is completed as described in the application, it will be the first tiny home on wheels used as an ADU in Lyons. Tiny homes on wheels were added to be allowed as ADUs in town code in January 2019, and R-2 and R-2A zones were added to the ADU ordinance in November 2019 (as an alternate choice to building second dwelling units).

January 2019 changes to the ADU ordinance allowed tiny homes on wheels that do not fit into the IRC code that building inspectors use, but are built according to recreational vehicle (RV) standards like American National Standards Institute Park Model Recreational Vehicle Standard 119.5, National Electrical Code Standards 551 and 552, and National Fire Protection Association Standard 1192. The term “tiny homes on wheels” or sometimes just “tiny homes” describes a trend that started in the early 2000s of small constructed homes that are on built on a trailer frame with axles and wheels, registered like RVs with VIN numbers. Tad Smith, the tenant who plans to move his tiny home on wheels to 225 Evans Street, said that do-it-yourself tiny homes on wheels cost about $15,000-$50,000, and professionally built tiny homes on wheels cost about $50,000-$100,000.

I’ve been following changes to the ADU ordinances in Lyons since the 2013 flood. Although an ADU ordinance was added to Town of Lyons code right before the 2013 flood, no property owners were applying for the conditional use review to add them, even during flood recovery. The Board of Trustees changed town code regarding ADUs in December 2016, hoping to inspire homeowners in residential neighborhoods to build more long-term rental units at the lower end of the market. Homeowners who want to build detached ADUs on R-1 lots (and also on R-2 lots added to the ordinance last fall) in Lyons now save up to $20,000-$40,000 in utility connection fees, because even detached ADUs can share the utilities with the main house. Homeowners must still complete a conditional use review application (which includes notification of neighbors and gathering public comments before the PCDC and Board of Trustees), live on the property (in either the main house or in the ADU), and cannot use any of the property for short-term vacation rentals. The trustees approved the town code changes with the stated purpose of encouraging more long-term rentals in town.

Even after the changes were made to allow sharing utilities with the main house, there have been only six other ADUs approved in those past four years. In the 12 months between May 2017 and May 2018, conditional use reviews were completed and approved for four new detached ADUs that went under construction in Lyons: a garage apartment at 427 Stickney Street, an apartment in a separate building at 327 Seward Street, an apartment above a garage for a new home under construction at 1024 4th Ave, and a separate 600 square-foot one bedroom apartment at 600 Indian Lookout Road, approved for an undeveloped parcel where a new home was planned to be built. Then, in June 2018, a conditional use review was approved for an apartment already built above an already-constructed large garage building (rebuilt after the 2013 flood) at 310 Fifth Avenue. Despite concerns from four neighbors, the ADU was approved by a majority of the PCDC commissioners and the Board of Trustees. After June 2018, no additional ADUs came through the conditional use process until April 2019. In May 2019, a conditional use review to build an apartment above a garage at 406 Prospect was approved. A proposal for 227 Park Street application for an existing building seemed to have stalled in the process. In January 2019, five members of the Board of Trustees approved allowing tiny homes on wheels RVs, in addition to modular homes and stick-built homes, as detached ADUs, but no tiny homes on wheels applications went through the process until the one approved for Evans street this week.

There are two future changes that we need to see related to the ADU policy that will support safe and affordable rentals in the Town of Lyons. Adding eight new market-rate but smaller long-term rental units to Lyons in the six and a half years since the flood is helpful, but it is not an overwhelming success. Our town can do more to ease the affordable rental problem.

First, as intended in 2016 with the changed policy that waived the additional utility connect costs, the now estimated 55 non-compliant ADUs in the Town of Lyons need to be brought into the program. This was a need public safety officials expressed so they would know which single family home lots have other households living in the back, to respond appropriately when there are emergencies. Also, it would prevent these legacy and assumed to be “grandfathered” dwelling units from being rented out as short-term vacation rentals when there are renters struggling to find places to live long-term.

Secondly, I would like to see incentives to property owners who build ADUs to rent at below market rate. Hollie Rogin, elected to the new Board of Trustees in this week’s election, has suggested swapping increased allowable square footage on ADUs for guaranteed limits on rent increases. Over the past two terms, Trustee Miller has stated that she wanted a way for ADU property owners to commit to lower rents, make ADUs affordable to lower-income renters, or agree to take tenants with housing vouchers. However, there was not enough support from other trustees, or implementation ideas from town staff at that time to pursue those requirements. Now that Miller has been reelected to the Board of Trustees in this week’s election, and Rogin is also speaking out in favor of affordability requirements for ADUs, there might be enough momentum for the future board to take this up. I hope to see Miller’s and Rogin’s ideas supported by the next board.

One of the first proposals for a detached accessory dwelling unit, built over a garage behind a house on Stickney Street, was approved in 2017. 

Avoiding evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 economic crisis

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Published in the April 2, 2020, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Avoiding evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 economic crisis

By Amy Reinholds

Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued Executive Order 012 on March 20 to temporarily limit evictions, foreclosures, and public utility disconnections to provide relief to Coloradans affected by COVID-19.

Polis’s order states that it is “providing support to unemployed Coloradans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am further mobilizing State resources to improve and expedite efforts to mitigate, respond to, and recover from the current economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This Executive Order will help protect the economic well-being of Colorado’s communities and businesses during the coming weeks and months.”

Susan Spaulding, Community Relations Specialist for City of Longmont, who leads the Landlord Training Alliance for area landlords, emailed information yesterday stating that Boulder County Courts will not hear any eviction cases until after May 31, 2020 (both residential and business evictions).

The eviction process in Colorado is already a long process for all parties–tenants and landlords–with mandated deadlines and steps that landlords and tenants must meet to have the case resolved in court. Several resources already exist to avoid or add steps in the legal process that are options outside of the eviction court proceedings (including some bills passed last year in the state legislature, as I have written about in previous columns).

Financial assistance and other help for both tenants and property owners affected by COVID-19

If their income is affected by the COVID-19 economic crisis, renters are encouraged to seek financial assistance to help them regain monthly income and to work out payment plans with their landlords if they don’t have enough to pay rent.

The Boulder County Resources for Those Affected by COVID-19 page advises both tenants and landlords: “Flexibility and compromise are essential right now. If you are a renter or mobile home owner and are concerned you will be unable to cover your rent due to the impacts of COVID-19, contact your landlord as soon as possible to discuss a plan that can work for both of you. In some cases, payment plans or temporary rent reductions might be possible. Tenants may be eligible for unemployment benefits or may be able to get financial help depending on qualifications.” It directs tenants to the Financial Assistance section of the resources page.

For emergency rental assistance, the Boulder County resources page points to the OUR Center for housing and rental assistance available for residents of the St. Vrain Valley School District. “We recognize the ability for renters to cover the costs of their housing is a significant concern for many in our community at this moment. We are working closely with our partners at the federal, state, and local levels to determine how best to address the need and will share more information here when we have it.”

Landlords and homeowners might also be able to get a reprieve on their mortgages if their ability to pay is affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The Boulder County resources page states “Landlords/property owners impacted by COVID-19 should check with their mortgage lender to see if their mortgage payments can be or are suspended.” It also says “If your ability to pay your mortgage is impacted by COVID-19 and your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may be eligible to delay making your monthly mortgage payments for a temporary period during which you won’t incur late fees or have delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus.”

And just as evictions are temporarily suspended in Colorado, so are foreclosures. The Boulder County resources pages states “Foreclosures and other legal proceedings are suspended during this time,” and points to the Coronavirus Assistance Information page of the Federal Housing Finance Agency website. “Contact your mortgage company as soon as possible to let them know about your current situation. Contact information for your mortgage company should be listed on your monthly statement.”

For both tenant and landlord issues, Boulder County Legal Services (303-449-7575) is offering appointments by phone for attorney guidance for low-income residents. Also, the Boulder County Bar Association has private attorneys available.

Spaulding’s email to landlords provided the following information, which is helpful for both landlords and tenants to know.

If a tenant is unable to pay rent due to a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic

Spaulding’s information states that tenants who are unexpectedly unemployed (both W-2 workers and non W-2 workers, or self-employed) might be eligible for unemployment benefits or able to get other financial help, depending on qualifications, as described earlier. She repeats the same advice from Boulder County that property owners should check with their mortgage lender to see if their mortgage payments are suspended.

“Housing providers will not be able to evict tenants for any reason, even for nonpayment of rent, until after May 31, 2020. Communicate early and often to discuss the financial realities and discuss an arrangement workable for both the housing provider and the tenant.” She said that some options could be payment plans, temporary rent reductions if possible, early termination of the lease without penalty, or substitute services for rent. “Document any agreement in writing and ensure that all parties sign (electronic signature acceptable). Be sure to discuss and include a contingency plan in case the original agreement can’t be kept.”

If a tenant has left town, abandoning the property

“The tenant remains responsible for rent until the property is re-rented or until the lease has expired,” Spaulding stated, “unless the housing provider and the tenant have agreed upon a different arrangement.” At the same time, the landlord/housing provider must make “a reasonable effort” to re-rent the property, she said. “It is important to check the lease to see who is responsible for re-renting the unit, and what criteria should be used to approve prospective new tenants.”

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How to help finish the third Habitat for Humanity building in Lyons

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Published in the March 26, 2020, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

How to help finish the third Habitat for Humanity building in Lyons

By Amy Reinholds

This spring, I was expecting to write an update about the final duplex building built by Habitat for Humanity in Lyons, 114 Park Street, and the families who will be purchasing the two homes and moving in soon. Then the COVID-19 coronavirus hit Colorado.

“We are very close to finishing up in Lyons, but COVID-19 has certainly interrupted us,” said Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. She said that Habitat staff are continuing to work because construction and specifically construction of affordable housing is considered “essential.” “Fortunately, our own staff are able to keep building, even if we’re not comfortable hosting volunteers–especially with mostly indoor work.”

Although in the near term you can’t donate or shop at the Habitat ReStore in Longmont and you can’t volunteer to build in Lyons, you can still support Habitat with a financial donation on stvrainhabitat.org. If you click the Colorado Gives button on that website, under Donation Details, you can select Program and Lyons Park Street Development.

“Also, stay tuned for future volunteer opportunities,” said David Emerson, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. “Once things clear, we will need people.”

Since January 2018, volunteers–from Lyons and communities across the region–have been working weekends and weekdays on constructing three duplex buildings at 112, 114, and 116 Park Street. Applicants were selected to purchase each of the six homes by April 2018, and the process to make Habitat for Humanity homes a reality in Lyons started at least three years before that. The first duplex at 112 Park Street was completed in April 2019, and the second duplex at 116 Park Street was completed in August 2019. For background on how these homes at Second and Park Streets came about, see an archive of past columns. There is also a great photo feature from last month’s Women Build event here in Lyons in the Lyons Recorder.

Building Habitat for Humanity to Lyons was a long road that started in 2014. The proposal for Second and Park Streets started in 2015, and we will be forever grateful to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley for not giving up on affordable housing in the Town of Lyons.

Habitat Duplexes August 2019

Where candidates stand on affordable housing – Part 2

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Published in the March 19, 2020, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Where candidates stand on affordable housing – Part 2

By Amy Reinholds

Both candidates for Town of Lyons mayor, Jocelyn Farrell and Nick Angelo, as well as Board of Trustees candidates Mark BrowningWendy MillerMike Karavas, and Hollie Rogin all have supported a wide range of ways to ease burdens on both homeowners and renters in Lyons in their official capacities when serving on the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Lyons Board of Trustees. These approaches include supporting policies for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) (including tiny homes on wheels and aging in place), limiting short-term vacation rentals, supporting Habitat for Humanity, encouraging using the $4 million in federal disaster recovery funds set aside for subsidized affordable rentals in the Town of Lyons (which Summit Housing Group eventually applied for and was granted by the State Housing Board), and highlighting the challenge local businesses face of finding employees who can afford to live in town. Board of Trustees candidate Kenyon Waugh, who hasn’t served on a board or commission in recent years, has said he supports increasing affordable housing by removing administrative barriers and hurdles, encouraging ADUs, employee housing, and supporting federally subsidized affordable rentals like the proposal from Summit Housing Group in Lyons Valley Park (although he hasn’t commented on details in the Summit proposal).

But Board of Trustees candidates Greg Lowell and Robert Brakenridge are focusing narrowly on one topic related to the term “affordable housing” during their campaigns: problems they see with a proposal from Summit for a development plan to build 21 townhomes with rents affordable to households at 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). I haven’t heard them talk about easing burdens on both homeowners and renters, of all ages, who are struggling to get by in a town and a region with rising house prices and rising rents. Other candidates have talked about these issues in their work over the past 6 1/2 years since the flood, or at least in their recent campaigns. Even at the candidate forum on March 9, when asked specifically about affordable housing, Lowell and Brakenridge responded with comments focused on the ability of residents to vote on every new affordable housing proposal. They made broad statements of general support for the Lyons Comprehensive Plan, but they ignored pieces of that plan about subsidized affordable housing, and they missed the reality of lost housing stock. (Approximately 76 to 94 homes were lost in the 2013 flood.) They didn’t talk about a way to help people who are struggling to pay rents and mortgages.

There are various nuances between candidates’ positions, which I describe in the following sections. The information comes from their voting records on boards and commissions, their email responding to my questions to all candidates, online correspondence they initiated with me, and their statements at the March 9 candidate forum. I list candidates in alphabetical order by last name.

It is important to note that the Town Attorney has advised that if there is a bias or prejudgment about the Summit Housing Group development plan for Lyons Valley Park, the State of Colorado standards for ethical conduct of elected officials require that the trustees must recuse themselves from a consideration, vote, or decision. Therefore, no one at the candidate forum commented about the specifics of that proposal.

 

Two candidates competing for the Town of Lyons mayor seat

 

Nicholas Angelo, a former Lyons mayor and former member of the PCDC, supported the ADU policy to encourage more lower-priced market rentals as a PCDC commissioner. In the platform statement emailed to me, he said he would like to see more of the subsidized affordable rentals at 40 percent AMI and special incentives for apartments accessible for people with disabilities. His earlier statements to me about the delaying of affordable housing until he felt the water treatment plant is operating correctly were problematic, implying the current plant cannot handle more residential units in town. In reality, the water treatment plant was designed for residential waste even more than Lyons can build out. The current issues are with industrial waste from high-strength waste producers, which are starting be addressed with a plan for a pre-treatment ordinance. More residential waste without the BOD contaminants will help dilute that high-strength waste.

At the candidate forum, affordable housing was not one of Angelo’s top three issues to tackle, but he said he agreed with Hollie Rogin’s comment to pursue how to make ADUs permanently affordable–something he did not pursue when he was on the PCDC. He also said that he wanted to see the subsidized rents in the Summit proposal go lower than the required maximum of 60 percent AMI and that he wanted affordable housing accessible “for the physically impaired.”

Jocelyn Farrell, a current trustee, has a history of supporting affordable housing initiatives on the Board of Trustees, including ADUs. In a platform statement that she emailed me, she said, “While this is a great start, it isn’t enough to support our community’s needs. Lyons does not have sufficient affordable home-ownership or rental options.” She mentioned the three Habitat for Humanity duplexes, which are one duplex away from being complete, as being some progress. “Having affordable housing options will help provide employees for our small businesses and enable Lyons to become a stronger, more diverse community,” Farrell said. “We must make plans now for future affordable housing development.”

At the candidate forum, Farrell listed affordable housing as one of the three top issues she wanted to focus on if elected mayor, and as something that touches her personally. In her platform statement that she emailed me, Farrell described growing up living in apartments, rental houses, and a mobile home. “The high cost of property taxes, health care, student loans, child care and transportation are a few examples that can have a significant impact on financial stability. I know Lyons residents who have these challenges and are one hardship away from choosing to live here or move out of town.” At the forum, she mentioned the Boulder County goal for 12 percent affordable housing across the county by 2025 and how the Town of Lyons is a partner in that plan, with a variety of affordable housing policies and proposals like the ADU policy and affordable rentals subsidized by the federal disaster recovery funds. “The ideas on the table will help us get there,” she said.

 

Seven candidates competing for the six seats on the Town of Lyons Board of Trustees

 

Robert Brakenridge, who volunteered recently on a subcommittee of the Lyons Ecology Board, emailed an policy statement that said, “My own belief, ever since the flood of 2013, has been that flood replacement/affordable housing, supported by public funds, should be in compliance with the Lyons Comprehensive Plan. On a topic that has caused the town so much controversy, I also feel strongly that town trustees should not substitute their personal beliefs for what a majority of the residents want, or don’t want. Subsidized affordable housing has a public cost; it should not be injected into a community unless that community has a say in it. Not just through developer-guided ‘information workshops’ but, ideally, through a vote.”

Brakenridge argues in a way that pits homeowners struggling to pay mortgages against renters who are struggling to find places to rent. He posted a comment to my column in the Lyons Recorder that suggested I don’t care about people with mortgages who have a property tax increase because I support the Summit proposal. Instead of his approach, we can live in a caring community that helps both homeowners struggling to pay mortgages and the renters struggling to pay rent. I think that is the compassionate path that almost everyone wants in the community–supporting multiple programs and approaches that ease the burden of the wide variety of homeowners and renters, like what candidate Rogin proposes. Brakenridge does not address this concept, which I think is vital for the Town of Lyons and the surrounding community. He doesn’t have a track record on affordable housing issues on a Town of Lyons board or commission, but he does have a track record of trying to prevent Summit from being approved for the CDBG-DR funding by giving input to the State Housing Board in February 2019. He asked the State Housing Board to reject the application, stating that it was incompatible with the Lyons Comprehensive Plan and other planning documents, that it does not address the housing needs of the town in a size-appropriate and economical manner, and is in disagreement with the purpose of the CDBG-DR funding program. The State Housing Board did not agree, and approved the funding.

At the forum, affordable housing was not one of Brakenridge’s top three issues. The candidates were asked directly about what kinds of affordable housing they supported in town. After hearing what others said, Brakenridge said he supported the “10 or 12 percent” goals that were already set by the Town of Lyons and Boulder County, and he repeated from the Lyons Comprehensive Plan that “towns need a range of housing.” He also made an observation: “I notice that we have a lot of R2 zoning with only one residence.” In reality, there are very few R2 lots in the town of Lyons that are not in the floodplain or on steep terrain with room for a second dwelling. This was discussed at recent Board of Trustees meetings in the past year when the board updated the ADU policy to allow tiny homes on wheels.

Mark Browning, a current trustee, has supported affordable housing issues like ADUs and limiting short-term vacation rentals that were before the Board of Trustees and the PCDC, on which he served. He also volunteers regularly with Habitat for Humanity. The platform statement that he emailed me mentions the same Lyons Comprehensive Plan as Brakenridge’s, but he seems to have actually read the plan: “I support affordable housing. The 2010 Lyons Comprehensive Plan provided, ‘Increase opportunities for affordable housing.’ Since then, we lost more than 75 low- to moderate-income housing units in the 2013 flood. We’ve replaced only about 12 (in Habitat for Humanity homes and ADUs). Lyons needs more affordable housing to even approach what we had pre-flood, much less address the Comp Plan goal to add more.” He said he looked forward to reviewing Summit’s application when it is finalized and hoped that Summit proceeds with a high-quality proposal. “I also continue to support ADUs to add more small rental options in the private sector market.”

At the March 9 candidate forum, Browning said affordable housing was the first of this three top issues, and he reiterated the platform statement that I mentioned above. He said the town already identified a need for more affordable housing, before the great loss of homes at the lower end of the market destroyed in the flood. And he linked it to the economic needs of the town. “Businesses need to be able to hire employees and have a place for them to live locally. It’s hard for them to find employees who can afford to live here,” Browning said. “Housing is important. It helps not just the people who live there, not just the community as a whole in terms of being open to diverse incomes, it helps businesses, too.”

Also at the forum, Browning said that Lyons can’t address the affordable housing lost by building on empty lots in town, because there aren’t that many of them. He said he had counted only five and fellow candidate Waugh told him of one more. “So that’s six vacant lots in town. I’ll donate $20 to the Lyons Community Foundation to anyone who knows of an additional available lot,” he said.

Michael Karavas, a current trustee, has supported affordable housing issues before the Board of Trustees in his two terms as a trustee, including Habitat for Humanity, the $4 million of federal CDBG-DR funds set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, encouraging ADUs for long-term tenants and limiting short-term vacation rentals, and adopting the Boulder County Housing Partnership’s Regional Housing Strategy.

At the forum, Karavas listed budget issues and housing issues together as a top issue, because he said they are tied together. He said it is important to keep Lyons a place where current residents can continue to afford to live and that raising fees for residents can work against keeping housing affordable. This approach is important for the Town of Lyons, as housing costs continue to rise in the region. I’m glad that Karavas is paying attention and cares about not losing long-time residents to this type of gentrification. He and Miller are valuable members of the board with this perspective.

When asked about what kinds of affordable housing he supported, Karavas said that since he was first elected to board in 2016, the main proposal on the table was for affordable rentals built by the $4 million in federal disaster recovery funds set aside for the Town of Lyons (which Summit Housing Group eventually applied for and was granted by the State Housing Board). “I am supportive of trying to bring something to fruition,” he said.

Greg Lowell, a current member of both the Ecology Advisory Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission, sent an email response to my request to all candidates asking if they had platforms for affordable housing, and what kind of affordable housing they support. He replied, “If Town trustees, mayor and staff actively engage in affordable housing projects (that is, offer Town land for such housing or enter into purchase agreements to buy land for affordable housing and then solicit building contractors), then there needs to be a public process and a binding vote of the residents on that project. The proper way to develop affordable housing should be making changes to municipal ordinances to favor affordable housing projects and seeking concessions from developers to include lower-priced homes in their mix of proposed houses.”

Other than requiring “a binding vote of the residents” there really isn’t much of a platform other than a vague statement about “changes to municipal ordinance to favor affordable housing projects.” I’m not sure how that would work. It seems like developers would have to work with the Town of Lyons for a binding vote of the residents before proceeding. Like Brakenridge, Lowell also tried to prevent Summit from being approved for the CDBG-DR funding by giving input to the State Housing Board in February 2019. He asked the State Housing Board to reject the application, stating that Summit housing group had not made a concerted effort to engage the community and to inform them of the application for funding before the State Housing Board. The State Housing Board did not agree and approved the funding.

At the forum, affordable housing was not one of Lowell’s top three issues. Lowell responded to a question about what kinds of affordable housing he supported in town by talking about what he described as “a lot of division” over a proposal in 2015 for using part of Bohn Park to build 50-70 federally subsidized homes, some Boulder County Housing Authority rentals, and some affordable Habitat for Humanity homes that would be sold. (A ballot issue asking voters if the town should sell a portion of park land for the project failed with 498 votes for and 614 votes against.) But he didn’t offer an answer to what proposals he supports moving forward in other than a vague mention of town residents examining “whether we want single homes integrated into the community.”

Wendy Miller, a current trustee, served on the Lyons Special Housing Committee in 2015-2016 and ran as a trustee on a platform supporting affordable housing and was elected in 2016. She was elected again in 2018. She is the board liaison to the Lyons Housing & Human Services Commission. Like Karavas, she has supported affordable housing issues before the Board of Trustees in her two terms, including exploring opportunities for the $4 million of federal CDBG-DR funds set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, encouraging ADUs for long-term tenants and limiting short-term vacation rentals, and adopting the Boulder County Housing Partnership’s Regional Housing Strategy. In her liaison work with the Housing & Human Services Commission, she is also interested in aging in place and home sharing for seniors, the intersection of transportation and housing needs, fair housing for people with disabilities, and improving situations for people who live in Boulder County Housing Authority rentals in Lyons.

Miller was not able to attend the March 9 candidate forum, but her record on affordable housing speaks for her. She has the experience of being a renter during the 2013 flood and its aftermath. She applied for and qualified to buy a Habitat for Humanity townhome, and she moved in last summer. In an emailed statement, she said, “I have lived in Lyons for 15 years, being a renter most of the time. When we moved here, it was a much different place. Artists, musicians, and blue-collar workers were the fabric of the community…creating a respected and magical place for ourselves and our children to grow up. Then the flood hit and everything changed.” She continued: “I represent the lower income class, the blue-collar folks; the ones who have lost their voice as housing costs have soared.”

When the Board of Trustees passed changes to the ADU ordinance over the past two terms, Miller stated that she wanted a way for ADU property owners to commit to lower rents, affordable to lower-income renters, or even agree to take tenants with housing vouchers. However, there was not support from other trustees, or implementation ideas from town staff at that time to pursue. With other candidates like Rogin speaking out in favor of affordability requirements for ADUs, there might be enough momentum for a future board to take this up.

Hollie Rogin, a current member of the PCDC, speaks in support of affordable housing issues on that commission, and she has previously served on the PLAN-Boulder County board, which has identified an affordable housing position. On her website, she spells out her affordable housing platform. While she calls adding more affordable homes “one tool in the toolkit,” she also says the town should “preserve and enhance the affordability we already have.” For example, she said the mobile homes and apartments at 224 Seward St. are not zoned for apartments and a mobile home park. “Let’s make sure they’re protected from redevelopment, and while we’re at it, let’s find a way to improve the properties.”

Rogin proposes enhancing the ADU ordinance “by preventing those units from being sold apart from the main dwelling unit. This practice, called ‘condominiumization,’ effectively removes more affordable rental units from the market and results in a windfall for the original property owner. Let’s also look at swapping increased allowable square footage on ADUs for guaranteed limits on rent increases.” These plans fit in with goals that Miller, Browning, and Karavas have previously discussed on the Board of Trustees, and now might have more momentum if Rogin is elected. She also mentioned adding larger goals like investigating how to use new residential and commercial development to fund a pool of money “to offset rising rents, offer down-payment assistance to those who qualify, and provide low-cost loans to residents who wish to build ADUs with guaranteed affordability.”

Rogin said at the forum that increasing affordable housing in Lyons was one of her top three issues. Like Karavas, she also talked about sustaining current “market-rate affordability.” She mentioned the goals she listed on her website, including modifying the ADU policy to incentivize or encourage property owners to provide lower than market rents or permanent affordability for low incomes, something that Miller has been advocating for during her years on the board. Rogin’s approach is even broader than just policies to the makeup of the volunteer commissions that help shape and interpret the policy. “I would like to see the town recruit people to the PCDC who might live in affordable housing,” she said.

Kenyon Waugh pointed to his personal experience at Lyons Properties, the partnership he and his wife are part of with four other families in the area. Lyons Properties owns River Bend, and Waugh operates WeeCasa Tiny House Resort on the River Bend property. In the platform statement he emailed me, Waugh said that he and his wife (former Trustee Juli Waugh, who resigned last year) as well as Lyons Properties are residential landlords with several tenants in town. “I would like to work to get affordable–and seasonal–housing in place for the town by removing administrative barriers and hurdles.” Waugh added that the ADU policy (including tiny homes on wheels as ADUs) is a good start, and “Now the town must be open to making these feasible and worth the time.” Waugh advocates for private development, and characterizes government as an impediment to efficient progress in affordable housing. “The only new affordable housing since the flood–or since I’ve lived in Lyons–is the Habitat for Humanity project,” he said. “This was driven by a private interest and supported quickly–and relatively painlessly–by the town.”

Waugh is mistaken about the speed and agility of the Habitat for Humanity project at Second and Park Streets. It was not a quick process, and the third duplex building is not complete. It also is not the only affordable housing built since he lived in Lyons, if he’s lived here since 2003. Walter Self Senior Housing was built in 2006 by the Boulder County Housing Authority, using funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development program. At the candidate forum, Waugh repeated the same incorrect statement that “the only affordable housing brought forward was through a private developer, with the town getting out of the way.” In reality, a Lyons Special Housing Committee formed in 2015, and one of the original members, Tom Delker, encouraged another, Craig Ferguson, to sell some land to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley to build federally subsidized for-sale homes. The original committee didn’t last long, and several times during the process of purchasing the land from Valley Bank, or in the subdivision process, Ferguson said he would quit and not move forward. It was far from a quick and smooth process by a private developer. Also, Habitat for Humanity homes are built by volunteers, which takes time, especially if there are not enough volunteers. The final duplex building is still being completed, nearly 5 years after that meeting where the Board of Trustees agreed to waive water and sewer connectivity fees they had control over. (Browning also took issue with Waugh’s statement at the candidate forum, saying that the project wouldn’t have taken place without the town’s financial commitment of waiving some fees for the project.)

At the candidate forum, Waugh listed affordable housing as one of the top three issues he would focus on as a trustee. “We need diverse affordable housing for employees of businesses in Lyons and the artists and musicians that made it a place where we all want to live.” In his email statement, Waugh said, “there are a lot of details to work out” in a larger project like the one Summit Housing Group is proposing with several federal funding sources, and those projects “take longer,” but he is still supportive. At the forum, he said, “I think there is a place for larger efforts. I applaud the effort.” He also said, “We’ve got cases where people are saying ‘not in my back yard’ ” in Lyons. Waugh said when talking with friends and family in other states about large metro areas like San Francisco and Seattle, he learned that “single-family zoning is the new redlining.”

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