Published in the October 26, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder. A similar column was published in the November 15, 2017 edition of the Redstone Review.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Proposed goal: 12 percent of homes affordable to low and middle income families
by Amy Reinholds
One of ideas that came out of a meeting with elected officials from municipalities around Boulder County last month was setting a goal of 12 percent of housing stock to be affordable to low and middle income households, to meet the needs of the region in the next 17 years.
Trustee Wendy Miller was one of the representatives from the Lyons Board of Trustees who attended a summit led by the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership Sept. 29 to discuss a regional plan to address affordable housing.
At the Oct. 23 meeting of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission, Trustee Miller (a Board of Trustees liaison) reported highlights from that summit and possible next steps.
“Boulder County is aware of affordable housing problems and is trying to find regional solutions,” she said, noting that small communities have greater challenges. “Lyons and Nederland and other mountain communities are in the same boat. We don’t have the population density to have services like other towns and cities have.”
Trustee Miller said that based on the high demand and the affordable housing deficit discussed at the summit, “The Town of Lyons needs to adopt a resolution for a 12 percent goal of affordable housing.” The Lyons Board of Trustees had previously set a goal of 10 percent of affordable housing in an April 2016 Affordable Housing Resolution (see www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/220?fileID=323).
Homes are considered affordable when monthly rent and utilities for renters, or monthly mortgage and expenses for homeowners, total less than 30 percent of gross monthly income for a household. The 12 percent goal is for homes that are affordable to middle income and low income households. The 2017 area median income for a family of four in Boulder County is $98,200, according to the Regional Housing Strategy draft. There are helpful examples in the Regional Housing Strategy document of what various middle and low income households can afford. For example, a family of four who makes 60 percent of the area median income earns $58,920 a year. To be affordable to this family, rent should not exceed $1,520 a month, or a mortgage should not exceed $1505 a month. The family can afford purchasing a home valued up to $238,721.
After hearing Trustee Miller’s highlights of the summit, and reviewing content in the Sept. 29 draft of the Regional Housing Strategy at their Monday meeting, the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Trustees that the town set a goal of 12 percent affordable housing in the Town of Lyons.
The Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission (which has requested a name change to the Lyons Housing and Human Services Commission) is a volunteer commission that advises the elected Lyons Board of Trustees in areas including education, aging issues, health and mental well-being, transportation, social connections, safety net, and economic support.
Before voting, the commissioners reviewed how many homes Lyons currently has that are permanently affordable to middle and low income households. The town has a total of 26 permanently affordable rentals (already in Lyons before the September 2013 flood): eight apartments at Bloomfield Place, twelve apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing, and six apartments at Mountain Gate. Also, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building six permanently affordable homes for sale (3 duplexes) at 2nd and Park Streets. Those 32 affordable homes are only 3.3 percent of the approximate 950 homes in Lyons. Encouraging a goal of 12 percent affordable homes in the Town of Lyons in the next 17 years would bring the number up to 114.
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, where 32 families used to live, 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, beginning work this fall.
Trustee Miller also told the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission that the summit brought to light two other opportunities that the Town of Lyons could pursue related to affordable housing: 1) Boulder County is willing to discuss changes to the boundaries of the Lyons Primary Planning Area, if there are currently properties outside the existing area that are adjacent to Lyons but could work for affordable housing. 2) She talked about working with the Regional Transportation District (RTD) board members in Longmont about how service between Lyons and Longmont could help the issue of workforce that can’t afford to live in Lyons.
The Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership is seeking input on the Boulder County Regional Affordable Housing Strategic Plan, at www.BoulderCountyHousing.org through Oct. 31. You can read my previous column on the “Priorities and Strategies for Ensuring a Diverse Housing Inventory” at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/a-regional-plan-to-address-affordable-housing
I’ll continue following this issue and any steps that the Town of Lyons considers based on this plan. According to the draft plan, after the adoption of the goals and strategies, the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership will meet quarterly to review progress and prioritize new opportunities and funding resources. The partnership will report annually to the Boulder County Consortium of Cities, which is an organizational structure to promote interaction and communication among local governments.
This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. 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.
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.