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Published in the February 15, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Affordable housing developers tour Lyons Valley Park site

by Amy Reinholds

Representatives from about eight development and architecture groups signed in to an introduction on Feb. 9, ending with a tour of the Tract A parcel in Lyons Valley Park that the Town of Lyons has an option to buy for affordable housing.

After the Lyons Board of Trustees approved a resolution authorizing a purchase and sale agreement that gives the Town of Lyons an option to buy Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8, already intended for 43 multifamily housing units, a request for proposals (RFP) for affordable housing developers who are interested in partnering with the town for the Tract A parcel went out on Friday, Feb. 2, with a due date of March 5.

Attendees at the Feb. 9 meeting at Lyons Town Hall included about ten interested parties and about ten interested neighbors and other Lyons residents. Others joined up with the walk-through tour of the Tract A site, meeting at McConnell and Carter. Representatives from the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs, and the Department of Housing attended, and other interested parties who signed in at the meeting at Town Hall were Sopher Sparn Architects, Steele Properties LLC, Commonwealth Development, Summit Housing Group, The Boulder County Housing Authority, Studio Completiva of Parallel Development Group, the Michaels Development Company, and Blueline Development Inc.

According to Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen, the next steps to prepare for the applications submitted on the March 5 deadline is to form a selection committee, expected to include representation from the community, such as the Lyons Valley Park Homeowners Association, The State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the other developer who has an option to purchase some of the land from Keith Bell, a member of the Lyons Board of Trustees, two members of town staff, and possibly representatives from the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission or past housing volunteer groups. Interviews with the applicants are expected starting March 8, with a final recommended selection going to the trustees by March 12.

The town signed a joint letter of intent between Keith Bell, president of Lyons Valley Park, Inc., who lives in Kansas, and David Wickum of Wickum Properties and Realty, authorized by the trustees on Jan. 29. It states the Town of Lyons intends to purchase Tract A and work with public and private sectors to replace some of the housing lost in the 2013 flood, and that Wickum intends to purchase Lots 15-32 of Block 2 to develop single-family housing.

If either Wickum or the Town of Lyons discontinues pursuing an intended purchase, Bell and Lyons Valley Park, Inc., will negotiate with the other party for a possible purchase. For example, if Wickum discontinues purchasing the Block 2 lots, the Town of Lyons could negotiate to purchase those as well. A price for all the tracts and lots won’t be negotiated until an appraisal is conducted, per Bell’s request. According to the agreement, Wickum and the Town of Lyons also plan to work in good faith to share infrastructure costs.

In the past year and half, the Lyons Board of Trustees has been trying to find land for affordable housing, to not lose $4 million in federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds set aside for Lyons. Mayor Connie Sullivan described to the public at both the Jan. 29 and Feb 5 meetings that the timing of the federal funding required having a sales agreement in place by the end of January, while the town determines if the land will work for affordable housing. Also, trustees talked about how the current owner of the land already has the right to develop, according to an existing intention for 43 homes in multifamily buildings in Lyons Valley Park Filing 8.

The difference is that instead of just market-rate multifamily housing sometime in the future, the Town of Lyons might be able to leverage the federal CDBG disaster recovery funds to purchase Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8 and partner with an affordable housing developer to build units that are affordable to households that earn 60 percent of the area-median income or less.

Lyons can receive a maximum of $40,000 in CDBG-DR funds per each new affordable housing unit (up to $4 million total if a maximum of 100 new affordable housing units are built somewhere in town). Lyons could be close to getting that full funding, if all proposed projects happen. The Lyons Valley Park Tract A allows 43 multifamily units. On the eastern corridor of Lyons, a partnership has submitted a proposal to purchase town-owned land that includes 45 affordable rental units built and managed by Thistle, a community non-profit, although the trustees are still requesting more information on that proposal.

In terms of federal and state funding, “affordable housing” typically means either rentals or for-sale homes that are affordable to people who make 60 percent of the area median income or less. Right now, 60 percent of the area median income is about $42,000 a year for an individual or $48,000-$50,000 for a two-person household. For that income range, monthly rent that is affordable is around $1,300, depending on family size. To be “affordable,” housing costs should not be more than 30 percent of a household gross income.

The Town of Lyons currently has a total of 26 permanently affordable rentals (already in Lyons before the September 2013 flood): eight apartments at Bloomfield Place near the Stone Cup cafe, 12 apartments at Walter Self Senior Housing near the post office, and six apartments at Mountain Gate on 2nd Ave. The only in-progress post-flood affordable housing is at 2nd Avenue and Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building six homes (in three duplexes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016. To volunteer, sign up at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction.

To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (taking into account the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.

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.