Published in the August 24, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Trustees hear affordable housing updates, businesses interested in land swaps
by Amy Reinholds
So far, about three local owners of light-industrial businesses are interested in learning more about relocating to town-owned land on the eastern corridor, which could open up more centrally located space in Lyons for affordable housing, according to a report from Lyons Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen on Monday.
Simonsen told the Town of Lyons trustees at their regular meeting Aug. 21 that she had reached out to about 12 different landowners of current manufacturing and industrial businesses, and so far three have responded saying they are interested in discussing the idea further. Trustees and Simonsen discussed upcoming ads in local papers and the town email blast to let local businesses know about the opportunity.
This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased land on the eastern corridor to use a piece of it as a permanent home for the town’s flood-destroyed public works building and to sell remaining available parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the recent Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. A request for proposals (RFP) for prospective buyers is expected to be ready soon. The land has been considered as a possible area for affordable housing, and if light-industrial businesses move from central areas of town to this eastern corridor area, land in central parts of town could open up for affordable housing.
On the northeast part of 4651 Ute Hwy, 2.15 acres will be the permanent home of the Lyons public works building. The remaining 4.3 acres on the north side of the road at 4651 Ute Hwy and the 3.28 acres on the south side of the road at 4652 Ute Hwy will be available for sale.
Trustees support “land swaps” of light-industrial businesses moving to the Ute Hwy land, and opening up land in town for affordable housing. The town does not want to lose $4 million in federal disaster recovery funds that are earmarked for housing in Lyons. A plan must be in place by end of September of this year that describes how the $4 million can be spent in Lyons, and the plan cannot change.
What can you do to help? If a manufacturing or industrial business in your neighborhood is interested in moving out east, and affordable housing is proposed in its place, be supportive. Welcome a new small apartment building like Walt Self senior housing by the post office that provides a rental option for friends and neighbors on fixed incomes, or working families who are part of the fabric of our community but can’t keep up with the skyrocketing rents in our town. Do you know a business that wants to swap a light-industrial parcel in town to move out east? Do you know an affordable housing organization that would be a good builder and operator of a small group of rental apartments? Contact Victoria Simonsen at Lyons Town Hall. I’m interested in what creative ideas our town can come up with.
Also, if you care about affordable housing for renters in the Town of Lyons, don’t miss next Monday’s public hearing before the Planning and Community Development Commission about the short-term vacation rental policy for residential zone properties in the Town of Lyons. The Aug. 28 meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
Right now, in town limits, short-term vacation rentals are not permitted by right on residential (R-1 and R-2) zoned land (neighborhoods where most of us live). A new, proposed short-term vacation rental ordinance that the PCDC and town planning staff are working on would also allow some short-term vacation rental use by right in residential zones (R-1 and R-2) in the Town of Lyons. To give residential property owners a break, the PCDC looked into simplifying town policy to allow renting rooms or suites in a house in a residential zone where the owner lives, to only one party at a time, with limited number of people in that party.
Not all homeowners who have a spare bedroom and bathroom want to have a roommate year round, but they might want to occasionally rent out that space to vacationers. That doesn’t concern me as much as someone who has an entire space, suite, or apartment, who would otherwise rent it monthly to someone who works in town but now sees a way to make more money renting the space to tourists. You can read a previous column I wrote at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/planning-commission-holds-public-hearing-about-vacation-rentals-aug-28.
Town of Lyons residents and elected officials say they want affordable housing, but there is evidence that unrestricted short-term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods drive up housing costs. A study published last month titled The Sharing Economy and Housing Affordability: Evidence from Airbnb found that a 10% increase in Airbnb listings in a zip code leads to a 0.39% increase in rents and a 0.64% increase in house prices. See papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3006832.
Also at the Aug. 21 meeting with trustees, Simonsen also shared additional information about affordable housing she learned at a conference with the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs. The State of Colorado has released a new 2017 edition of the Affordable Housing Guide for Local Officials, which is described as “a one-stop compilation of funding, programs, housing options, service providers, and terminology.”Anyone can view the guide at dola.gitbooks.io/affordable-housing-guide. Simonsen also reported that she met Tim Gough, a housing development specialist for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Region 1 counties (which includes Boulder County). According to the website, the Division of Housing for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs “works with a variety of partners to increase the availability of affordable housing to residents of Colorado.” The Divsion of Housing “provides grants, loans, rental subsidies and bond authority to local governments, housing authorities, non-profit organizations, for-profit and non-profit developers, private landlords and other organizations to create, preserve and rehabilitate housing for Colorado’s workers, families, seniors and those with special needs.”
This column 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. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes and expects to start work this fall.