Published in the April 2, 2015 edition of the Lyons Recorder
What’s the future for affordable housing in Lyons?
A new column for accountability
by Amy Reinholds
The day after the election, my passion prompted me to gather people who were outspoken and persistent that they had new, creative, ideas for housing. I had been thinking of this a lot during the past month as the “armchair quarterbacking” of “it can be done better” popped up often on Facebook. As I told the Daily Camera reporter the day after the election, if Lyons wants to accomplish anything with housing, we’ve got to keep up the momentum after affordable housing in Bohn Park was voted down. We need people on both sides of the vote to step up, and especially those who think they have better ideas. We owe that to the people who were displaced.
I emailed Craig Ferguson, Nate Mohatt, Tom Delker, and Justin Spencer, and they all agreed to meet with me. Craig posted a public-private alternative plan and repeatedly discussed it on Facebook the weeks before the election. Nate and Tom had expressed interest in smaller scale housing, and more ownership options with deed restrictions. Justin, who does not use Facebook, was recommended by a mutual friend as having some creative ideas. We had an overall positive meeting the day after the election.
Discussions began with rehashing ideas that the Housing Recovery Task Force has gone through many times before. Since I’m referencing Facebook, I think Trustee Connie Sullivan’s post on Tuesday is helpful to understand the past: “The issue was not that there were no other plans considered, it was just that they all cost more, help fewer people, and take years longer to implement.”
The group discussed the following ideas, all which have various risk levels of not being affordable, ending in dead-ends, or taking a long time: 1) encouraging accessory dwelling unit (ADU)/mother-in-law apartment development with lower priced tap fees for the second unit on a property, based on size of the dwelling (market rate) 2) finding more opportunities for Habitat for Humanity to do infill projects for people keeping their land, like the Ramon & Carmen Vasquez house, or land available for sale (permanently affordable, subsidized by nonprofit) 3) Can the Williams property work? 4) Getting land from Markel developers that is rumored they have decided not to develop 5) Resolving the access issues with the Loukonen property 6) Looking again at all the properties considered during the past year and a half 7) Starting a nonprofit housing authority for Lyons and 8) Craig Ferguson said he talked to Sandy Williams about buying his property (market rate).
It’s important to notice the difference between permanently affordable for all future residents and market rate housing. It’s also important to recognize the difference between market rate housing and housing that is initially affordable by size or cost. Will we only have housing that is initially affordable to the first renters or buyers but then can go up with the market? What are the tools to guarantee that even initial affordability is possible?
The group is asking the Board of Trustees to create a new housing commission, which they would apply to be appointed to. I am currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission, and it makes sense that my relationship to a new group would be as a liaison from that commission. The next meeting of the BoT is April 6.
Before any decisions are made about a commission, I’ve had other people ask me what they can do to help. Here’s a place anyone can start (you could have done this at any time in the past year): Look at the Lyons Recovery Action Plan goals that were assigned to town commissions and boards back in 2014 that are relevant to ideas that are currently being discussed. Pick the idea you are passionate about, and attend the meetings of that board or commission. For public meeting times and locations, check the calendar on the town website: http://www.townoflyons.com/calendar. Here are some of those goals:
- HOU 1.3.3: Encourage the construction of alternative and sustainable housing developments with different ownership models (HOU-2 Project Development Guide: model development of affordable green homes and HOU -5 PDG miracle village permaculture). responsible party: Sustainable Futures Commission.
- ACH 1.1.1: Create a live-work development that can provide affordable housing for artists as well as a space to incubate their trade and business. (ACH-2 Project Development Guide: live/work space mixed use for artists). responsible party: Lyons Arts and Humanities Council.
- INF 1.1.2: Incentivize the implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures to create resilient and sustainable energy distribution (INF-5 Project Development Guide: Off-grid renewable energy generation and energy efficiency upgrades). responsible party: Sustainable Futures Commission.
- Mixed use (housing above commercial property) issues: The BoT directed all proposals for this type of development to go to the Economic Development Commission.
- Accessory Dwelling Units/mother-in-law apartments: Policy discussion and review went through the Planning and Community Development Commission last year.
Keep following this column. I am committed to keeping all new affordable housing efforts accountable to the community. You’ll hear regular updates about what has been accomplished and what hasn’t been accomplished here in this column.
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. She has lived in Lyons for 11 years and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.