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Published in the May 17 edition of the Redstone Review

Federal funds budgeted for households moved from buyout properties


By Amy Reinholds
Affordable Housing Columnist
Redstone Review

LYONS – After the Town of Lyons closed on a buyout of the flood-damaged Foothills Mobile Home Park at the end of April with with federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds, households who used to live there now are eligible for the Uniform Relocation Assistance program.

On May 10, the Lyons Board of Trustees approved a resolution ratifies expenditures of up to $591,386 of CDBG-DR Replacement Housing Payment funds (part of the Uniform Relocation Assistance program), available for homeowners and tenants who lived at the Foothills Mobile Home Park, and also 4 other single-family-home buyouts that were completed with CDBG-DR funds. With the 16 households in the Foothills Mobile Home park, that makes 20 households from Lyons that will receive assistance and funds for new living situations.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/affordablehousing/training/web/relocation/overview, describes responsibilities for residential displacements like the Town of Lyons CDBG-DR buyouts. The responsibilities include providing relocation advisory services to displaced tenants and owner occupants, reimbursement for moving expenses, and providing payments for the added cost of renting or purchasing comparable replacement housing.

The trustees passed a resolution that approves the expenditure of the Replacement Housing Payment program funds for tenants of the 104 5th Avenue (Foothills Mobile Home Park), 415 Prospect Street, 417 Evans Street, 109 Park Street, and 323 5th Avenue.

The former 1.26-acre Foothills Mobile Home Park at 104 5th Street, had 16 residential units, some rented lots for owned mobile homes, and some rented units, most which were destroyed by the 2013 flood. The State of Colorado set priorities for how the FEMA funds from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program could be used for buyouts of flood-destroyed homes, prioritizing single family homes (the buyouts Lyons saw in the past year) over the Foothills Mobile Home Park, considered a commercial property. But the buyout of the Foothills Mobile Home Park was completed with CDBG-DR funds instead.

The Town of Lyons is required to grant a 90-day notice after the April 28 closing date to a current renter of a house at the west end of the property. Then after those 90 days, when the tenant moves out, the demolition can begin. The time-frame requirements for reimbursements of demolition and cleanup costs are mandated by the federal funding sources.

The Uniform Relocation Assistance program is good news for people who receive these additional funds, something that wasn’t available for displaced residents whose landlords didn’t participate in the buyout program for flood-damaged properties. I’m not sure if anyone will use those funds to rent or buy in Lyons, because the difficulty of finding affordable rentals and homes for sale in Lyons. However, if people want to share their stories, I hope to cover this topic in future columns.

Here’s an update on the latest steps toward affordable housing in Lyons in the past month:

  • A free-market approach that aims to encourage more lower-cost rentals: The first official detached accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in Lyons was approved through the conditional use process, with no additional tap fees, under an ordinance changed at the end of last year to encourage more small apartments (also called mother-in-law apartments or carriage houses) as long-term affordable rentals for people who work in town. The original Town of Lyons ADU ordinance, established in 2013 after the flood, allowed small apartments to be permitted on single-family residential lots, but no homeowners in Lyons applied to participate in the program for those 3 years. At the end of 2016, the Planning and Community Development Commission and the Board of Trustees voted to change town code, removing the additional utility connection fees for “detached” ADUs in separate buildings from the main house on single-family residential lots in town limits. On May 1, the trustees approved a proposed detached ADU on property located in the R-1 residential zoned district at 327 Seward Street. The proposed ADU will in an existing garage that is currently 520 square feet, expanded to be a total of 600 square feet. It will be adjoining a separate recording studio building.
  • A permanently affordable home-ownership model: Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley asked for more flexibility to adjust the area-median-income target to help the Town of Lyons get more applicants in the primary preference group of people who were living in Lyons at the time of the flood and were displaced. The trustees agreed to changing the development agreement and affordable housing covenant so that households that make 80% of the area median income can also be included, although preference will be for applicants 60% of area median income or below. Although the median income of an area (Boulder County, in our case) changes every year, you can get an idea by going to the Boulder County Area Median Income Table at www.leaflyons.org/resources.html. For example, the area median income for a household of two people is about $75,900, so 60% is $45,540, and 80% is $60,720. Area median income is measured by family/household size. Second reading for the resolution to change the development agreement with Habitat for Humanity is expected May 15. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased 6 residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes. So far, applicants have been selected for 2 out of the 6 homes.

After the September 2013 flood, the Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). For history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. This column is a monthly commentary (opinion column) in the Redstone Review about affordable housing. 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 its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.