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Published in the June 15, 2016, edition of the Redstone Review.

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

Speak up for affordable housing

By Amy Reinholds
Redstone Review

LYONS – Do you still care about helping add back affordable housing in Lyons? Pay attention to the following meetings, and let both the Board of Trustees and the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) know how you feel:

1) The Board of Trustees and the PCDC have a joint workshop on Monday, June 20, from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Lyons Town Hall. Mayor Connie Sullivan said last month that this workshop will focus on policy-driven discussions for affordable housing. The trustees decided to direct the PCDC to advise on how to implement affordable housing policy and incentive strategies listed in a Lyons Affordable Housing Resolution passed by the outgoing Board of Trustees on April 18. A tap fee study that was needed for town utilities will be completed soon, and that information also should guide help the PCDC commissioners and the trustees on incentives. The workshop will also cover possible incentives and public safety issues for homeowners who want to rent out accessory dwelling units.

2) The second reading of the final Planned Unit Development (PUD) plan ordinance for rezoning for the former Valley Bank parcel at 2nd and Park, to allow 6 Habitat for Humanity homes, is expected to be scheduled for a public hearing at the Tuesday, July 5, Board of Trustees meeting, along with a resolution for the subdivision plat. The 6 lots for 3 duplexes can be sold to Habitat for Humanity after the plat is recorded, and the former bank building will remain on a commercial lot. Board of Trustees meetings start at 7 p.m.

Try to attend the meetings on both June 20 and July 5. Those of us who are interested in seeing workable affordable housing polices and incentives need to follow up with trustees, town staff, advisory boards, and commissions to make sure that the policies and incentives from the resolution are actually implemented. And those of us who like the affordable home-ownership model of Habitat for Humanity and want to see it in Lyons should also express our support.

Someone recently told me that she wanted Lyons to change policies for accessory dwelling units so she could build an apartment over her garage in her single family home neighborhood without paying high tap fees for utilities. She said she wants to provide rental housing but isn’t interested in a cap on what she could charge to keep it affordable to people with incomes in lower ranges (for example, the people who work for small businesses in Lyons). But she also wasn’t interested in attending PCDC, Board of Trustees, or the Engineering and Utilities Board meetings to express her interest in changed policies.

Others have told me similar stories, varying on whether they would voluntarily keep rents low or support programs that cap rents. The problem is, unless people reach out and express their wishes to the volunteer commissions and the elected Board of Trustees, the result is nothing happens. (I mean nothing happens to add affordable rentals in town. Some things will happen if we do nothing: based on the real estate markets we see in Lyons and Colorado, the rents will continue to rise, and home sales prices will rise.)

Since my column last month, the Board of Trustees have been talking about affordable housing on the Eastern Corridor.

“We all want to see a diversity of housing in Lyons,” Mayor Sullivan said at a Town Hall meeting about flood recovery on May 25. “We are down about 200 citizens.”

Sullivan said that the Board of Trustees are looking for parcels and developer partners for permanent affordable housing. The Town of Lyons has an option to buy contract on the former Longmont Water Treatment plant land, both north and south of Hwy 66 and east of Hwy 36. A state economic development fund will grant Lyons funds to extend town water and sewer utilities out to the eastern corridor for the purpose of developing the former water treatment land.

At a June 6 meeting, Sullivan asked trustees to review draft questions for a short survey of citizens about options for annexation of property in the Eastern Corridor, including promoting affordable housing and economic development.

Also, Dave Emerson, Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, gave an informational report to the trustees June 6 about contracts to maintain permanent affordability for Habitat for Humanity homes built in Lyons, and the preference policy to fill the 6 homes proposed for 2nd & Park Streets.

First preference is for applicants who were living in the 80540 zip code during the flood and were displaced. Second and third preferences are for applicants from surrounding areas who were displaced by the 2013 flood, and current local residents, students, and employees of 80540 who weren’t displaced.

Despite the preference policy, applicants must also qualify for the Habitat for Humanity program. Households must demonstrate a need for housing (examples include paying more than a third of your family income on rent, not qualifying for a traditional loan, or living somewhere that is not able to be maintained for health and safety), a willingness to partner with the Habitat for Humanity program (including volunteering hours to build their home and other homes), and ability to pay the mortgage and provide a down-payment (some assistance is available).

Emerson said that Habitat for Humanity hopes that all 6 homes will be filled with people in the primary preference category. They already know of three interested applicants who have been living out of state since they were displaced by the flood.

“We hope to bring back people who were displaced,” he said. “That’s success in our mind”

And watch for information about a flood rebuild project with Habitat for Humanity this summer in Lyons at a home in the confluence neighborhood. I’ll spread the word about volunteer opportunities when the project is scheduled.

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 areinholdsn@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 its existence from April 2014-April 2015. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.