Published in the December 13, 2017, edition of the Redstone Review.
COMMENTARY: AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN LYONS
Shifting focus from ourselves to others
By Amy Reinholds
Affordable Housing Columnist
LYONS – When I review the activities surrounding affordable housing in Lyons in the past few months, I see a theme: Success comes when we can shift focus from ourselves to others. As we reflect on 2017, celebrate holidays, and begin the new year, it’s an appropriate time to think about how to make this shift.
Sign up now to volunteer on Lyons Habitat for Humanity construction in January
Lyons community members 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 at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction. Volunteers will be needed starting in late January, on four construction days per week: Wednesdays through Saturdays. These are the days I was hoping and waiting for in past years when drama and arguments filled Facebook discussion groups. [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.”]
Not able to volunteer? You can donate funds to Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley specifically for the Lyons construction: www.stvrainhabitat.org/online-donations.
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 http://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. The three applicants selected in previous rounds are all are in the first preference category.
Read more on this topic in my previous column: Sign up to volunteer on Lyons Habitat homes in January.
Don’t stop dreaming about creative options on the eastern part of town
One of the applications for a request for proposals (RFP) to buy town-owned land east of Colo. Hwy. 66 and U.S. 36 proposes building 45 affordable housing units for rent, as well as an aquaponics farm and grocery, and a commercial kitchen. Paul Glasgow, Town of Lyons Planner and Director of Community Development, reported to the Lyons Board of Trustees at Dec. 4 workshop that the most detailed proposal out of two received is from a partnership including the regional affordable housing non-profit Thistle.
The other two partners in the proposal, Glasgow said, are a developer who has worked in the Denver Highlands neighborhood and on a local greenhouse, and Donna Merten of Colorado Group, who is interested in aquaponics farming, based on success in Singapore. The group’s proposal is for purchasing all the land that Lyons is selling, on both the north and south sides of Hwy. 66 (about 4.3 acres on the north side and the 3.28 acres on the south side).
This spring, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 from the City of Longmont 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 Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. The land has been annexed into town, and the part that is for sale is currently zoned as agricultural land.
The proposal is about 90 percent complete, and a selection committee is expected to make a decision soon about next steps. The committee’s recommendation will come before the trustees at a future public meeting (now scheduled for Jan. 16, 2018).
Consider being a landlord
Lyons needs more rentals for people who work in town, especially after losing 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).
If you are thinking about building a carriage house or a garage apartment, check out the Town of Lyons accessory dwelling unit policy at www.townoflyons.com/566/Accessory-Dwelling-Units. You might also have a space in your house and are considering renting to a roommate.
Understanding rights, protections, and resources for both tenants and landlords is important. The laws and contracts that define relationships between tenants and landlords can affect the both finances of the individual tenants and landlords and how many homes in a community are affordable to the low and middle-income households who need them.
There are only four Colorado state laws that address landlords and tenants, and the Federal Fair Housing Act. There are no specific ordinances about the tenant-landlord relationship in Town of Lyons code. However, the Lyons Human Services & Aging Commission, a volunteer commission that advises the elected Lyons Board of Trustees, is compiling a list of federal, state, and county links and information resources for tenants and landlords that can be made available on the Town of Lyons website. Examples include the HUD Tenant Rights, Laws, and Protections Colorado page at www.hud.gov/states/colorado/renting/tenantrights and The Colorado Renter’s Guide from the Colorado Apartment Association at www.caahq.org/main/colorado-renters-guide.
Read more on this topic in my previous column: Tenant and landlord rights and resources.
This column is a monthly commentary (opinion column) in the Redstone Review about affordable housing after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For 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, and the land at 2nd and Park that Habitat for Humanity bought to build 3 duplexes – read previous columns 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.