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Published in the May 16, 2016, edition of the Redstone Review.

COMMENTARY: What’s the fix for affordable housing in Lyons?

New steps toward Habitat for Humanity in Lyons

By Amy Reinholds
Redstone Review

LYONS – After so much discouraging news for affordable housing in the past 2 1/2 years, a few events in recent weeks lifted my spirits. On May 6, I volunteered with Lyons Mayor Connie Sullivan and Boulder County Commissioner Deb Gardner and a dozen other women to frame new townhouses in Longmont with Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. And I learned that the first reading for the final PUD plan for rezoning for 2nd and Park, so 6 residential units can be sold to Habitat for Humanity, is on the agenda for the June 6 Lyons Board of Trustees meeting.

I know this proposal is only for 6 units, and it’s only for people who are looking for home ownership, but after everything I’ve seen, I’m feeling good about the progress. The second reading of the rezoning is expected to be scheduled for the July 5 Board of Trustees meeting.

Although it will be a while until there is new construction work at 2nd and Park, I learned while volunteering with Habitat for Humanity that there will be a flood rebuild project this summer in Lyons at a home in the confluence neighborhood. I’ll spread the word about volunteer opportunities when the project is scheduled.

There’s another move in the direction of more affordable housing since my column last month: The outgoing Lyons Board of Trustees approved a resolution on April 18 that specifies a goal of 10% affordable housing stock in Lyons with a list of possible housing policies and incentives that future boards can use to accomplish that goal. The challenge now is that town staff, advisory boards/commissions, and the Board of Trustees all need to find ways to implement the policies and incentives to achieve more affordable housing.

I spoke to the Board of Trustees during the audience participation portion of the May 2 meeting, suggesting that the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Utilities and Engineering Board (UEB) could be the first two boards to advise on policy and incentives. Those of us who are interested in seeing workable affordable housing polices and incentives implemented should follow up with the Board of Trustees, the PCDC, and UEB to see that this work happens. Lyons people who care should make sure that affordable housing doesn’t fall off the list of priorities. The same goes for the commission where I serve, the Human Services and Aging Commission. As we are setting our goals for this year and next, an assessment of human services needs, including housing that is affordable and suitable for the aging population, and tenant and landlord issues need to continue to be prioritized.

Someone recently asked me what happened to the idea of a survey about how the Lyons community feels about affordable housing. A draft survey was included with the background information that the Special Housing Committee gave the outgoing trustees (before the trustees sunset the housing committee and drafted and passed the affordable housing resolution). It’s up to the current trustees to determine if they want to use that draft survey, and if a survey is useful to understand what education or outreach is needed about affordable housing.

In my opinion, the Primary Planning Area master planning process for the Eastern Corridor area was a useful way for the community to give input on their opinions about affordable housing and other future land use for areas that are allowed to be annexed to the Town of Lyons in the future. I witnessed a variety of input about affordable housing and commercial development and some very positive discussions between members of the community who had different ideas on growth. I thank everyone who was involved in the Eastern Corridor workshops. I witnessed respect and members of the community listening to each other and seeking understanding, especially during the April 14 and 28 workshops. The process will continue this summer for other parts of the Primary Planning area that are to the north and the west of town.

When Mayor Sullivan and Commissioner Gardner and I volunteered in the Poplar Grove neighborhood in Longmont, one of the days that Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley participated in the ninth annual National Women Build Week, I was with a team on the second story of a townhouse assembling framed walls. Two women who were going to be future Habitat for Humanity homeowners in the neighborhood were working on a neighbor’s home that day, participating in the sweat equity part of the Habitat for Humanity home-ownership program (Habitat homeowners get no-interest mortgages but agree to put in up to 500 hours of “sweat equity,” depending on family size, on both their own homes and other homes in the community).

As we were holding up framed walls for others to secure with a nail gun, one woman said that she had thought home ownership was beyond her reach, and she didn’t think she would qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home. But she decided to complete the application process anyway and got the good news. Now her home would be across the street, where work was just beginning on the foundations.

When Mayor Sullivan and I talked at lunch, we both expressed the same thought as we looked at a row of some already completed homes in the neighborhood: Habitat for Humanity homes could look like this in Lyons! We took pictures to show others back home.

Keep following my columns in both Lyons papers for news about any accomplishments to increase affordable housing stock in Lyons. Keep up with housing-related agenda items at Board of Trustees and PCDC meetings. All town meetings are open to the public and posted at www.townoflyons.com/calendar.aspx. If you have any questions, comments or complaints about this column, contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.

Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the special housing committee during the past year. She has lived in Lyons for 12 years and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.