Published in the April 23, 2015 edition of the Lyons Recorder

What’s the future for affordable housing in Lyons?

Board creates new special housing committee

by Amy Reinholds

On April 20, the Board of Trustees created a special housing committee that will keep working on finding affordable housing solutions after the proposal for housing in Bohn Park was voted down last month. So far, the board appointed Justin Spencer (as chair), Tom Delker, Craig Ferguson, and Nate Mohatt as members of the committee, and at least three other members are expected to be appointed. Residents and nearby community members interested in volunteering for the committee should complete the application at http://www.townoflyons.com/images/stories/Advisory_Board_Application_2.pdf and return it to town hall (or email it to danthony@townoflyons.com).

The board agreed to have Trustee Dawn Weller as the board liaison, Cody Humphrey as the town staff liaison, and me as the liaison from the Human Services and Aging Commission. Liaisons from the Economic Development Commission, the Sustainable Futures Commission, and the Planning and Community Development Commission are expected to be announced soon. Liaisons are still needed from the Utilities and Engineering Board and possibly other commissions. Janaki Jane will serve as an external liaison and resource, based on her work with displaced residents. However, the trustees also asked the committee to find at least one member who is currently displaced from Lyons.

The first meeting of the new housing committee could be as early as this Thursday night, but it was not finalized at press time. Check the town calendar at http://www.townoflyons.com/calendar for regular weekly meetings of the housing committee. Trustees stated that the housing committee is required to follow state sunshine laws, as are all boards and commissions.

The trustees charged the new committee with bringing forward viable projects – to find the project first and then get the funding. Trustee Connie Sullivan said “The funding was not the problem before, finding the land was. There is funding for affordable housing, if you can find projects that are ready to build.” At every Board of Trustees meeting, a representative of the committee will provide an update following Sgt. Goldberger’s report.

All trustees spoke of urgency, and thanked the group for wanting to move forward quickly. Trustee Barney Dreistadt said that although the proposed housing in Bohn Park was lost, “We did not lose our obligation to have our displaced residents come back.”

The committee was told to come forward with land inside the Lyons Planning Area and not to propose housing for commercial property unless it is part of mixed-use development. The committee should go back to the board early if there is a compelling reason for proposing to violate one of these constraints. The trustees said that projects must follow fair housing laws, and guarantees of sustained affordability must be proven, specifying how many years a project will provide affordable rentals or ownership. The committee was advised not to subsidize market-rate housing.

Trustees also reminded the committee of previous board decisions about flood replacement housing: a total goal of recovering 100 rooftops lost. The committee was asked to use the Lyons Recovery Action Plan and the recent housing market study as a basis for its work.

Several trustees expressed concerns about a town housing authority concept mentioned in the group’s presentation. “I would like to steer you away from putting the taxpayers of the town at risk with a Lyons Housing Authority,” said Trustee Jim Kerr.

The committee was also advised to be careful with plans to change density, which can be opposed by surrounding neighborhoods, and proposals that change tap fees. Trustee Kerr, who is a liaison to the Engineering and Utilities Board, said “There aren’t a lot of unused taps just sitting out there waiting to be thrown at some new project.”

For background on how this group came together, read my past columns:

Following Monday’s board meeting, Ferguson posted on Facebook about the new housing committee. I noticed that all the people who commented to his post about moving forward on Tuesday already have places to live in Lyons town limits or the nearby rural community. I didn’t see people commenting who are living in temporary (if you call 19 months temporary) places in Longmont or further away because their homes were damaged in the flood. If our community really wants to help with replacement housing issues, we have to meet the needs of the people who want to live in those new homes. It’s great if those of us who live in Lyons want to do something now, but I ask all of us not to forget to include the people who the housing is intended for.

Keep following this weekly column for updates about what has and has not 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.