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Published in the November 24, 2016, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?

Habitat buys 6 residential lots at 2nd and Park

by Amy Reinholds

Even though actual building won’t start until spring, it’s an exciting time for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, for people who lost their homes in the 2013 flood and hope to return to Lyons as a Habitat homeowners, and for all of us who have been working to bring affordable housing to Lyons.

Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley closed Nov. 17 on the purchase of 6 residential lots from Craig Ferguson and his LLC partners.

“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time,” said John Lovell, director of development for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. “We’re excited to be involved again with the Lyons community and to be able to bring families home to Lyons in the next several years.”

Now that Habitat for Humanity owns the land, the organization can move forward with the application process for new homeowners of townhomes at 2nd and Park Streets. A January 7 orientation will be held for interested applicants who were living in the 80540 zip code during the flood and were displaced from their homes. Those who have already signed up with Habitat will be contacted with details about the meeting. There will also be an online orientation available Jan 3-10 for those who cannot attend in person. Interested applicants who are not already on Habitat’s list should contact Erin Minaya at eminaya@stvrainhabitat.org or 303-682-2485 x 104.

South of the former Valley Bank building (which remains on a separate commercial lot), there will be a row of 6 Habitat for Humanity townhomes. In July of this year, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved final rezoning and subdivision steps to allow 6 residential lots at 2nd and Park to be sold to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley. The 6 lots for 3 duplexes were sold to Habitat for Humanity after the plat was recorded. Habitat for Humanity will complete the required subdivision improvements for the residential lots.

In June 2015, Craig Ferguson purchased the entire 0.76-acre parcel from Valley Bank. Later that month, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to waive water and sewer connection fees that they have control over for proposed Habitat for Humanity homes. The total of about $173,500 in savings will help Habitat for Humanity meet its permitting and fees budget, keeping mortgages down to about $150,000 for homeowners. Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners.

The 6 residential lots will be permanently affordable, based on a covenants for resale, administered by Habitat for Humanity. First preference is for applicants who were living in the 80540 zip code during the flood and were displaced. (The group that will meet in an orientation January 7 should bring copies of FEMA letters.) 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. Habitat for Humanity hopes that all 6 homes will be filled with people in the primary preference category and knows of three interested applicants who have been living out of state since they were displaced by the flood.

Applicants who meet the preference requirements 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). 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.

There will also be volunteering and fundraising opportunities for the Lyons community. Watch for more information to come from Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley also has worked on rebuilding for homeowners in Lyons with flood damaged homes. In October and early November, Habitat led volunteer crews three days a week on Mark Bray’s home in the confluence neighborhood. The foundation and home have been raised above the flood plain, and volunteers reconstructed the first floor of the home. For more information, see www.stvrainhabitat.org/flood-repair-volunteer-opportunities.

There are other opportunities to help Mark Bray, who is facing health issues and recovery after a hospital stay. Joycelyn Fankhouser and other Lyons community members have reached out to help to ease his transition from recovery and eventually back to his home in Lyons, where he hasn’t been able to live in the more than three years since the flood. Debra Hill, a caseworker with Boulder County Housing and Human Services, said that cards and letters during the Thanksgiving holiday would be most helpful and encouraging in the immediate timeframe.

“I believe it would be of great comfort and encouragement to know his community is rooting for him to get better and return home after three and a half years of being displaced,” Hill said.

You can reach Debra Hill at dhill@bouldercounty.org. Joycelyn Fankhouser will be collecting cards in Lyons both before and after Thanksgiving. You can contact her at fankfam@gmail.com.

When the new Habitat for Humanity townhomes are constructed, Lyons will have 6 more homes toward those lost in the September 2013 flood. The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including one buy out of a mobile home park expected to close soon) and to the changed use of a second mobile home park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) in 5-7 acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election.

For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at https://lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. All town meetings of the elected Lyons Board of Trustees and appointed town boards and commissions are open to the public and are supposed to be posted on the town calendar at www.townoflyons.com/calendar.aspx. This column is a weekly commentary in the Lyons Recorder. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.