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Published in the November 23, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Sign up to volunteer on Lyons Habitat homes in January

Lyons residents who want to volunteer constructing the three duplexes at 112 Park St. (east of 2nd Ave.) can now sign up for volunteer days on the Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley website.

Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley now has all final building permits from the Town of Lyons, and excavation and the pouring the foundations is expected to take 3 to 4 weeks, according to Executive Director David Emerson. Volunteers will be needed starting January 10, 2018, on four construction days per week: Wednesdays through Saturdays. Volunteers can sign up at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction for the specific days they are available.

[According to an email update from Construction Director Stephen Scott to volunteers on Jan. 3, “We started getting foundations in late December but because of holidays and the cold weather, the contractors have not been able to pour foundations on schedule. At this point we are hopeful that we will have a foundation ready to build on by late-January and we will keep you updated on our progress.”]

Also in January, the third round of homeowner applications begins. In the previous rounds, applicants were selected for three out of the six homes to be built in Lyons, and the application round starting in January is for the remaining three homes. All who are interested in applying need to attend an orientation session either in person at Rogers Hall in Lyons on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 10 a.m., or complete an online orientation at www.stvrainhabitat.org between Jan. 15-30. Anyone whose applications weren’t accepted in previous rounds can participate in round three but must attend the orientation either in person or online.

The preference policy still remains the same order in this round of applications. First preference for the new homes is for applicants displaced 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 all six 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. So far, applicants have been selected for three of the six homes, and all are in the first preference category.

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 earn as much as 80% of the area median income can also be included.

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. You can read more about the Habitat for Humanity application process at www.stvrainhabitat.org.

In November 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots from Craig Ferguson of Planet Bluegrass and his LLC. The lots are on Park Street, east of 2nd Ave, south of the former Valley Bank building (which remains on a separate commercial lot). At the end of July 2017, the construction plan for public improvements that Habitat for Humanity was required to complete was approved by the Town of Lyons engineering staff. At the 4 year anniversary of the flood in September 2017, Habitat for Humanity held a site-blessing and ground-breaking ceremony on the land. During the fall, Habitat for Humanity continued work to select contractors to do the public improvement infrastructure work and the foundations of the three duplexes, and worked with the Town of Lyons and the Lyons Fire Protection District for required building permits for the homes.

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. 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). For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons – including 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 that was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in March 2015 – you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.