Published in the July 19, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Lyons Neighbors series: Meet Stevie LaRue
This summer and fall, look for features of some of our Lyons neighbors who live in affordable rentals. This profile is the first in the series.
Stevie LaRue first came to Lyons in 2006. He had lived in Ward, Colorado, since 1971, and originally rented a room from a family friend he knew from Ward who had a house in Lyons. “I saw him at the Folks Festival and asked if he had space available,” he said. LaRue is a long-time volunteer at Planet Bluegrass events in Lyons and Telluride.
He was still working for the Boulder County Parks Department then, although he retired soon after he moved to Lyons. LaRue lived a few different places in Lyons, and after the 2013 flood, he said he “floated around” with different situations with roommates and living where he worked on flood rebuilding.
In 2015, LaRue moved to an apartment at Walter Self Senior Housing, after what he described as about seven years on the wait list. He said the community at the small senior apartment building is one of the aspects he likes the most about living there. “Everybody gets along here,” he said, over a lunch of fajitas one Friday. “That’s rare.”
Two catered weekly lunches are sponsored each week by Boulder County Aging Services at the community room. The meals on Wednesdays and Fridays are open to all in the community, whether or not they live in the Walter Self apartments. People 60 and older receive a lower price for the lunches in a pay-as-you-can model. Those younger than 60 can join for lunch, paying a full price that is similar to the cost at other cafes and restaurants in town.
LaRue also likes the location. “It’s very central,” he said. “Oskar Blues is just a walk across the park.” An avid music fan, LaRue goes to about two or three concerts a week. He has volunteered at Rockygrass and the Folks Fest for 17 years. LaRue has two sons who live in Breckenridge, one who is a professional snowboarder, and he enjoys trips visiting them in the mountains, sometimes coordinating trips to festivals together.
“It’s so wonderful being part of this community,” he said about Lyons as a whole. “You can wave at anybody and they wave back.”
“We all talk about how about lucky we are here,” LaRue said of his neighbors at Walter Self. “It’s a safety net. I’ve very happy with life because I don’t have to worry about finding a place.”
LaRue grew up in Springfield, Ohio. Although I have known him since 2006, and have heard his stories about being a police cadet during the turbulent 1960s and quickly changing his career path, he revealed something I never knew when we were eating lunch. When he was 11 and 12, LaRue’s family lived in Japan when his father went there for a civilian job on an Air Force base near Sapporo. “I learned Japanese,” he said. “At that age, I was like a sponge.”
Other ways he spends his spare time is creating his own art. LaRue has focused the past few years on painting portraits and other images on sandstone.
“I think God put me on this earth to be a good example and spread kindness. I found my purpose in life here in Lyons.” LaRue also volunteers to drive his neighbors who no longer drive to doctor appointments or other errands.
What are some favorite parts of Lyons that he would share with people who are new to town? The summer concert series in Sandstone Park, music at Oskar Blues, and “There’s a wonderful library, something I didn’t know about when I first moved here.”
Walter Self Senior Housing, 335 Railroad Ave., contains 12 one-bedroom apartments for people age 62 and older or with a disability. Walter Self Senior Housing was built in 2006 by the Boulder County Housing Authority, using funds from US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development program.
According to the Boulder County Housing Authority, the maximum income for one-person households ranges from $34,800 for very low income to $47,600 for low income and to $53,100 for moderate income. Renters pay 30% of their income toward their rent, which can be as low as $830 a month. The rent amount is set by USDA Rural Development.
Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis, and applicants are placed on a wait list (www.BoulderCountyHousing.org , under “Affordable Rentals,” choose “How to Apply”).
There are currently 26 permanently affordable rental homes in the Town of Lyons (already in town 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, all operated by the Boulder County Housing Authority. Although some subsidized affordable rentals have been proposed in the past year, so far, the only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016.
This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. The Town of Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes, and a 2015 proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. 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.