Published this in the August 2, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Summit says 29 affordable rentals could work on Tract A
by Amy Reinholds
Summit Housing Group is still pursuing purchasing other properties in Lyons to be able to build a total of at least 40 affordable rental homes. However, if Lyons Valley Park Tract A is the only site, the company could still move forward and build only 29 homes there, Summit president Rusty Snow said last week.
Snow gave an update over the phone to the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission on at the commissions regular July 24 meeting. Elizabeth Johnson, an architect from Lakewood who is working with Summit, attended the meeting in person. Commissioners asked questions about the income levels and rents for the proposed housing and how the process would work for renters.
Federal disaster recovery funds in the form of Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing are available at a maximum of $100,000 per rental home, which would be $2.9 million if Summit builds on just the Lyons Valley Park Tract A, or up to $4 million if Summit can build at least 11 units somewhere else, for a total of at least 40 units. However, Snow explained to the commissioners that the Department of Housing requires that the total funds awarded must be spent by September 2019.
“I don’t anticipate any issues,” he said about that deadline. He said it would fit in with a time frame of acquiring the land from Keith Bell of Lyons Valley Park Inc. “But we will have to decide whether to start construction in winter. We would try to get at least the excavation work done before winter.”
He also said that based on the funding deadline, Summit would have to decide what date is too late to continue pursuing purchasing another property. However, he and Johnson said they both hope that Summit can acquire additional land in Lyons.
“If we add 20 units [somewhere else in Lyons], we would have a difference financing that could allow moving to lower AMIs,” Snow said, referring to how to determine the specific number of homes available for renters with household incomes in the various income brackets, from 30 percent to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI).
Johnson said that a geotech report did come back for Lyons Valley Park Tract A, showing as expected that there is a lot of bedrock on the site, and no more than 29 homes would be feasible there because of the terrain. In the spring, Summit determined that the Lyons Valley Park subdivision agreement allows for multifamily density on 3.82 acres of Tract A of Filing 8, allowing about 27-29 homes (whether built by Summit or someone else), but not as many as the 43 Summit had originally proposed in a request for proposals application.
Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in 6 states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions affordable to people who make 60 percent of AMI or less. The latest homes in Colorado are Centennial Park Apartments at 1205 Pace St. in Longmont. The federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) program is a source of funding that helps developers build rental homes at lower cost. The LIHTC gives investors a reduction in their federal tax liability for every dollar they invest in financing to develop affordable rental housing. The investors’ equity contribution subsidizes the development, allowing housing units to rent at below-market rates.
On Jan. 29, the trustees approved a resolution authorizing a purchase and sale agreement with current owner Keith Bell of Lyons Valley Park Inc, for an option to buy Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8, a parcel of a little more than 4 acres. A selection committee (including representatives from the Lyons Valley Park Homeowners Association and the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission) brought forward two finalists for the applications received for the request for proposals (RFP), and Summit was selected by the trustees in March. The purchase and sale agreement with Keith Bell was then assigned from the Town of Lyons to Summit, who is working directly with the seller.
Because of the LIHTC program, Summit typically provides homes with rents available in four levels based on percentages of area median income (AMI): households with income at 30 percent or lower AMI, 40-31 percent AMI, 50-41 percent AMI, and 60-51 percent AMI. At the Human Services Commission meeting last week, Snow gave examples of the broad range of incomes: from a one-person household with a $23,000 annual income up to a five-person household with a $70,000 annual income. Each of the four income levels have different rents, also based on family size. Examples of rents for two-bedroom apartments are $661 a month for a 30 percent AMI household, and $1,200 a month for a 60 percent AMI household.
Commissioners and members of the public asked about the preliminary market study that Summit used to apply for the RFP, which showed a need for more rents at the 60 percent AMI level than at the 30 percent AMI level. However, social services in the Lyons community show a great need for assistance at the lower income level. Snow said that as the purchase and development process moves forward, a full market analysis from a third party will be required by Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA). “We would ask the third party market analysis to get data specific to Lyons,” he said, describing that some of the preliminary housing market info in the RFP was based on census data that is not always 100% accurate or applicable on the scale of a small town like Lyons.
Snow also confirmed that a preference policy like that of Habitat for Humanity would be in place for Summit rentals proposed for Lyons. People who were living in the 80540 area during the 2013 flood and were displaced from their homes have first priority.
Renters who are interested in getting on a waiting list will have to wait until about 120 days prior to the construction completion before filling out applications. However, Snow said they can go to www.leasehighland.com, the property management site for Summit buildings, to see what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit, including the homes in Longmont. If all the steps are completed and Summit purchases the land and begins construction, information will appear about Lyons on that website.
Summit plans to hold another community meeting in August about the updated proposal for Lyons. At a previous community meeting in May, input from several homeowners in the Lyons Valley Park neighborhood encouraged Sam Long, Summit senior project manager, to consider building only 29 homes instead of the 43 homes that Summit was originally planning for Tract A of Lyons Valley Park.
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. 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. 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.
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.