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Published in the July 6, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

An update on Habitat for Humanity homes in Lyons

by Amy Reinholds

Several people have been asking me about the status of the 6 homes that Habitat for Humanity of the St Vrain Valley plans to build in Lyons. At the end of last week, I checked in with Habitat for Humanity and Town of Lyons staff so I could report an update.

Before Habitat for Humanity can break ground, final paperwork steps in the process must be completed. These final steps are the approval of engineering documents by Town of Lyons staff. Joe Kubala of the Town of Lyons engineering department said Friday that he was working on review and comments for the grading plan in the engineering documents for new Habitat homes. He said he hoped to get the review and comments to Habitat for Humanity by this week. Kubala said that typically, if the applying entity submits a modified document back that incorporates and addresses all the comments from the Town of Lyons staff, an engineering document can be approved in a day or two.

In November 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots on Park Street, east of 2nd Ave, south of the former Valley Bank building (which remains on a separate commercial lot) and plans to build 3 duplexes. Two rounds of applications for homeownership have been completed, and Habitat for Humanity is taking a pause before a third round of applications for Lyons. For the 6 homes in Lyons, two applications were selected in the first round, and two more applications were selected in the second round. The third round, when it opens, will select applications for the remaining two Lyons homes.

Habitat for Humanity of the St Vrain Valley executive director Dave Emerson has explained said that Habitat staff is busy in the application process for other new homes in Longmont and Dacono. Also, Lyons construction dates were pushed out because the development plan/engineering documents approval took longer than expected. Habitat for Humanity doesn’t want to rush selecting all 6 homeowners because of the time before all 6 homes is Lyons are completed.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference is for applicants at 60% of area median income or below, but households that make 80% of the area median income can also be included. 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.

In addition to agreeing to partner with Habitat to put in volunteer hours on construction of their home and their neighbors’ homes, applicants must meet other requirements for mortgages. For example, they must have a debt-to-income ratio of 43% or lower (more flexible than what traditional lenders require) and have credit reports that meet specific requirements. As with any mortgage application, the most common challenges to qualifying are related to debt-to-income ratio and credit reports. St. Vrain Habitat mortgages are usually about $150,000, and have no interest. Monthly mortgage payments, including escrow, are set at 27% of the household gross monthly income.

For the Lyons homes, first preference is for applicants displaced from their homes as a result of the flood disaster of 2013, who maintained their primary residence in the Lyons area (80540 zip code) at the time of the flood. If the 6 homes can’t be filled with homeowners in the first preference category, the second and third preferences are for applicants from surrounding areas who were displaced by the 2013 flood, and those with ties to the Lyons 80540 area, such as current local residents, families of Lyons students, and area employees.

You can read more about the Habitat for Humanity application process at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/steps-for-potential-habitat-for-humanity-homeowners-2/ and www.stvrainhabitat.org/lyons. Applicants from the earlier rounds whose applications weren’t accepted can meet with Habitat staff to discuss needed steps to take for the third round. The first preference category of 80540 residents displaced from their homes as a result of the 2013 flood still has priority, even in the third round.

Several different parties owned the land at 2nd and Park in the past two years. Here’s a summary going backwards: On Nov. 17, 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley bought the 6 residential lots from Craig Ferguson and his LLC partners. In July 2016, the Lyons Board of Trustees unanimously approved final rezoning and subdivision steps, and after the plat was recorded with the county, Craig Ferguson and his LLC partners sold the 6 lots for 3 duplexes to Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity agreed to complete the required subdivision improvements for the residential lots. In June 2015, Craig Ferguson purchased the entire 0.76-acre commercial 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 Habitat for Humanity. 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.

This is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. 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 lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. 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). 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) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. The 6 Habitat for Humanity homes are the only new affordable housing option that is in process for Lyons since the 2013 flood.