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Published in the April 9, 2015 edition of the Lyons Recorder

What’s the future for affordable housing in Lyons?

Where we are, two weeks after the vote

by Amy Reinholds

Let’s look at what’s happened in the past week related to affordable housing. For background on who I am and what a new group of citizens is doing, read my past columns: http://www.lyonsrecorder.com/index.php/lyons-chatter/5839-task-force-work-is-done-now-work-lies-with-all-citizens (pre-election) and http://www.lyonsrecorder.com/index.php/lyons-chatter/5933-a-new-column-for-accountability (post-election).

The request to the Board of Trustees from Justin Spencer, Nate Mohatt, Tom Delker, and Craig Ferguson asking the board to create an affordable housing commission didn’t make the April 6 agenda, so Justin is sending a request for the April 20 meeting. They asked me to speak during the April 6 public comments to express to the board that there are people who want to keep working on affordable housing and build on the extensive work that has been done before the election to find sites and grant opportunities, and to collect public input.

I look forward to hearing how the trustees feel, if the board directs staff resources and also citizens (as a new task force or commission) to look at recovery housing issues in the aftermath of the vote. It’s possible that they might want to avoid rehashing what was done before and instead direct interested citizens to plug in with alternative initiatives that are already handled by existing town boards and commissions.

Justin and I went to the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) public hearing last week and learned that the ship has essentially sailed on the current round of funding distributed through sub-allocation. Lyons has now missed the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) deadline. There are still opportunities to work with the state, who is administering some funds, but developers who want to seek those funds must have parcels under control and project plans ready to go. There is another round of CHFA funding in the fall, and most likely a Round 3 of CDBG-DR. Tom has been researching the CDBG process.

Other updates:

  • Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley will be able to use some of the CDBG-DR funds in Round 1 that are earmarked for state-wide Habitat for Humanity, up to $100,000 per housing unit. The St. Vrain chapter is committed to continuing to have conversations to build as many units as possible in Lyons. However, the money can’t be activated unless specific parcels of land with infrastructure are identified and meet requirements so that Habitat can complete the project by the CDBG-required dates. Typically, the St. Vrain chapter needs builder-ready infill land that is already platted, with needed infrastructure ready to go. It is possible that smaller pieces of land for a few homes that aren’t yet platted but don’t have as many steps remaining to get to the build-ready state could work. However, meeting the CDBG-required time frame is still necessary.
  • The rumored “undeveloped parcel from Markel” is not actually owned by Markel (it is owned by Keith Bell), and it is not platted. The only platted parcels are the ones that Markel wants to sell for market rate.
  • Craig has been talking with founders of a housing authority in the City of Estes Park to explore how to create a Lyons Housing Authority. Currently the Boulder County Housing Authority (BCHA) serves as the housing authority for Lyons. What are the differences between how a “home” housing authority works in Estes Park, as a city, and Lyons, as a statutory town? How does this compare with the City of Lafayette deciding to end their housing authority and to work with the BHCA like Lyons currently does?
  • Craig said he is meeting with Lyons town planner Bob Joseph and Jacque Watson, economic development and community relations manager, in the next week about how an Urban Renewal Authority could enable him to develop Ferg’s Inn into affordable housing for artists and musicians. He said he wants to find out what sources of funding come along with any “affordability” commitments, if a housing authority must be involved, and if tax credits can still be obtained for projects financiers without an intervening agency.

After the vote failed, our community is left with revisiting past options that were expected to cost more, help fewer people who lost their homes, and take longer to implement than the proposal to work with the BCHA on a new residential neighborhood in Bohn Park. It could be that the reality of alternative plans moves the time frame out so far, so that it is no longer possible to achieve “recovery housing” with projects completed in time to meet the requirements to spend the federal disaster recovery funds and give preference for people whose homes were damaged. Instead, new housing looked at now might be “affordable housing” for our community in the future. It’s still a reality that the town faces, that this is all that’s left after the vote. Not everyone believes that something is likely to happen this late in the game. Even my husband, who knows how many nights and days I was away at meetings in the past year and a half, is doubtful.

I have heard a lot of people say they want to help the town accomplish something after the vote for Bohn Park failed. I want them to have a chance to do something. But, to cut down the time it takes new people to get up to speed on everything that town staff and previous volunteers on boards and commissions did in the past year and a half, we’ve got to leverage that past work as efficiently as possible.

Keep following this weekly column for updates about what has been accomplished and what hasn’t been accomplished.

 

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.

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