Published in the December 21, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Trustees vote for county-wide goal of 12 percent of homes affordable for low and middle income

by Amy Reinholds

The Lyons Board of Trustees voted on Dec. 18 in favor of adopting the Boulder County Housing Partnership’s Regional Housing Strategy. The trustees voted support the overall goal to increase housing stock affordable to low and middle income households by 12 percent across the region by 2035, but they also committed to keeping local goals.

“We should be clear in our resolution that we don’t see this as our limit for the Town of Lyons,” said Trustee Dan Greenberg.

Others agreed. “This should not supersede any community goals already set,” said Mayor Connie Sullivan.

Trustee Barney Dreistadt described a concept of stacking goals. “The county-wide strategy is a county need, on top of what the Town of Lyons identified,” he said. “I see these as stacking goals, which could even get us up to a number of 160 [new affordable housing units] in Lyons, or something like that.”

In the resolution they approved on Dec. 18, the trustees included a reference to their local commitment in the April 2016 Town of Lyons Affordable Housing Resolution goals of 10 percent total housing in town that is affordable to households that earn 80 percent or less of the area median income (see www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/220?fileID=323). They discussed that they might readdress this local percentage in the future, but they are both willing to continue this goal, and to have the Town of Lyons take on additional responsibility in sharing affordable housing goals in the regional plan, “stacked” on top of the local town goal.

The trustees also included a statement in the resolution that the Town of Lyons has the need to continuously renew and review local affordable housing goals, on a regular basis.

I had delivered a report from the Human Services and Aging Commission earlier at that Dec. 18 meeting during the Boards and Commissions Reports section of the agenda. I stated that the commission heard Trustee Wendy Miller’s highlights of a Sept. 29 Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership summit at our October meeting and reviewed content from a draft of the Regional Housing Strategy at www.BoulderCountyHousing.org. The commission voted 5-0 to recommend to the Board of Trustees that the town set a goal of 12 percent housing in the Town of Lyons should be affordable to middle- 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.)

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 trustees in areas including education, aging issues, health and mental well-being, transportation, social connections, safety net, and economic support.

Before voting, we had 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 currently in Lyons.

Emily Dusel, co-chair of the commission, had expressed concern at our October meeting that if 12 percent affordable housing was spread out across the county, more affordable housing might be prioritized in other larger cities instead, leaving Lyons and Nederland with less than 12 percent added to their local housing stock. Encouraging a goal of 12 percent affordable homes in the Town of Lyons locally would bring the number up to 114 (of the estimated total of 950 homes in Lyons).

I also communicated to the trustees in my Dec. 18 report that the Human Services and Aging commission feels it is important that Lyons remain involved in the collaboration with the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership so that our town does not miss out on opportunities. It was confirmed that both Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen and Director of Community Development Paul Glasgow attend all partnership meetings and will continue to do so.

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. 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.

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.

You can see drafts of the Boulder County Regional Affordable Housing Strategic Plan at www.BoulderCountyHousing.org. The timeline of the regional plan is to set goals before the beginning of 2018, to build staff capacity now through 2020, to bolster financial resources now through 2024, to consider the regulatory process now through 2024, the secure land from 2019-2026, and to implement the new affordable housing from 2020-2035.

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.