COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Community learns more about Summit proposal for Lyons Valley Park
by Amy Reinholds
The public learned at a community meeting on Sept. 11 that Summit Housing Group wants to build 12 buildings of duplexes and triplexes (a total of 29 residences) on Lyons Valley Park Tract A of Filing 8, and 11 single family homes on 11 adjacent single family homes lots that are already platted. All these proposed homes would be rentals for people who earn about 40-60 percent of the area median income, Summit president Rusty Snow said.
Snow gave examples of rents for someone who earns 40 percent of the area median income (about $36,000 for a single person or more for a larger household size) as approximately $906 a month for a 2 bedroom rental home or $1045 a month for a 3 bedroom rental home, depending on family size. Flood-displaced residents are prioritized for these proposed homes, and Snow said he planned to work with the Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF) to reach out to possible future renters.
Summit Housing Group, which has a contract with Keith Bell of Lyons Valley Park Inc to buy the parcels, held a community meeting at the Lyons Middle/Senior High School and gave updates on a preliminary concept plan for the proposed homes. Snow and Denver-area architect Elizabeth Johnson presented updates and answered questions from neighbors in Lyons Valley Park and the broader community.
The density of the proposed multifamily homes are actually less dense than the market-rate Lyons Valley Village multifamily homes that are already in Lyons Valley Park. According to information from Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen, Lyons Valley Village has 18 buildings on 2 acres, with about 30 total residences. [The density was later confirmed to be 11 total buildings on 2 acres, with a total of 18 residences. Of the 11 buildings, one is a community house, eight are duplexes, and two are single family homes. You can find out more information at www.lyonsvalleyvillage.info/about.] In comparison, the multifamily units that Summit is proposing are 12 buildings on 4 acres, with a total of 29 total residences. About 2.9 of those 4 acres are buildable, which means the remaining space on that Tract A will remain undeveloped.
Snow and Johnson said that the 12 buildings of duplexes and triplexes would be two stories and not higher than 25 feet, and the 11 single family homes would be one story. They said they were interested in getting a copy of the Lyons Valley Park Homeowners Association (HOA) design guidelines so the buildings match the existing neighbors’ homes. Snow also said he was willing to discuss whether Summit would join the HOA.
Federal disaster recovery funds in the form of Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing are available to Summit at a maximum of $100,000 per rental home, up to $4 million for the total 40 residences. Total funds awarded must be spent by September 2019, and Snow said that there will not be an issue spending those funds on land acquisition and tap fees. He also said that Summit is not requesting discounted or waived tap fees from the Town of Lyons for building affordable homes.
Summit plans to use federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), which 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 (required to be 60 percent of area median income or lower). Renters complete applications and re-certify each year (and some income growth is allowed each year).
This proposal for Lyons Valley Park still has many more steps to go before it becomes a reality. The next steps are a site plan development review process for building the multifamily homes on Tract A, which is a public process and requires data such as a traffic study. The process begins with a public hearing before the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission and later goes to a public hearing before the Lyons Board of Trustees. Nearby homeowners and all community members can submit public comment either in person or in written comments for all the public hearings. The development process for single-family lots is like all others already platted in the subdivision and else where in Lyons, requiring a permitting and development process with the Town of Lyons.
Snow said on Sept. 11 that Summit expected to submit the site plan for the development review in the next 45 days. Summit entered into a new contract to purchase both Tract A and the 11 single-family parcels from owner Keith Bell on Sept. 3, and Snow estimated that Summit might be able to complete the purchase as early as the end of November.
This 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 any future property owner), but not as many as the 43 that Summit had originally proposed. At Summit’s May community meeting, several homeowners in the Lyons Valley Park neighborhood encouraged Summit to build just the 29 homes on Tract A. But at the same meeting, the president of the Lyons Valley Park Homeowners Association said his attorneys did not agree that any multifamily housing was allowed in the subdivision agreement and announced that the HOA was prepared to go to court. At the Sept. 11 meeting, no official of the HOA announced a status of whether or not the HOA was going to court. Other than questions and concerns about parking and roads, no one expressed objections to the number of homes proposed. There was a question about whether multifamily housing was allowed “by right” on Tract A as part of the subdivision agreement, and the discussion centered around how multiple lawyers from both Summit and the Town of Lyons determined that a density of up to 29 multifamily homes was currently allowed on Tract A, without rezoning.
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 six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions affordable to people who make 60 percent of the area median income or less. The latest homes in Colorado are Centennial Park Apartments at 1205 Pace St. in Longmont. The property management site for Summit buildings, www.leasehighland.com, shows what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit, including the homes in Longmont.
Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes. 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 (including 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.
In March 2015, a 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. Some other subsidized affordable rentals have been proposed in the past year, including Summit’s proposal in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision and a proposal from the Greens partnership to purchase town-owned land on Hwy 66, east of Hwy 36 (adjacent to the new town public works building that is under construction). The proposal from the Greens partnership includes an innovative food agriculture business, a commercial kitchen, other business space, and affordable rental homes from Thistle Community Housing, but steps have not moved to a purchase agreement yet. 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 six residential lots. To volunteer or to donate to Habitat for Humanity construction costs in Lyons, go to www.stvrainhabitat.org.
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. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact her directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.