Published in the Oct 25, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
How to donate or volunteer to build Lyons Habitat for Humanity homes
by Amy Reinholds
As the holidays approach, it’s a good time to remember how anyone in our community can contribute to the six Habitat for Humanity homes being built at 112 Park Street, either by contributing funds, volunteering time, or coordinating a business or organization to do both.
Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of six, for-sale homes) on six residential lots the non-profit purchased in late 2016 (south of the former Valley Bank building, which remains on a separate commercial lot). Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. Mortgages are about $150,000 (depending on some custom options). Monthly mortgage payments including taxes and insurance will range from about $650 to $850 for all the homeowners in Lyons, depending on income and household size.
Applicants to purchase all six of the homes were selected by April of this year, and several friends and family members have been helping donate volunteer hours to count toward each household’s “sweat equity.” All Habitat for Humanity homeowners complete about 250 volunteer hours of per adult in each household, which includes attending financial and home-ownership classes, as well as working on construction of their own and their neighbors’ homes, or working at the Habitat ReStore in Longmont.
The preference policy gave first preference for applicants displaced as a result of the flood disaster of 2013, who maintained their primary residence in the Lyons area (80540 zip code) at the time of the flood. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference is for applicants at 60% of area median income or below (and possibly as much as 80% of the area median income was allowed for Lyons). A permanently affordable restriction means that homeowners who sell their homes in the future must sell to qualified buyers who are in that same income range.
Habitat for Humanity is hoping that several of the homeowners will be celebrating the new year in completed homes, but more volunteer labor and donations are needed.
The ways that the local community can help see the Habitat for Humanity homes to completion falls into two categories: donating and volunteering. To donate specifically to the Lyons construction, go to www.coloradogives.org/rebuildlyons. To volunteer, no specific experience is needed, and training is on the job for each the 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. volunteer shift. On the website at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction, after clicking FLOOD REBUILD-LYONS, volunteers can review all volunteer days with openings and sign up for one or more of the specific days they are available. Volunteer days at the Lyons site are usually Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
The Adopt-a-Day sponsorship is an opportunity for groups or businesses to both donate and volunteer. It costs Habitat approximately $2,500 a day to build (costs of materials, permits, and site supervision for example). The combination of volunteer service and a financial contribution of $2,500 doubles the impact of the generous groups on Habitat’s mission. The Lyons Lions Club and its youth chapter, “the Lyons Leos,” joined together in May for an Adopt-a-Day sponsorship at the Lyons construction site. There is room for more big-hearted businesses or organizations to do the same later this fall. Although Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley has some federal disaster recovery funding, there is still a large gap in the costs of building these homes that fund-raising and donations must fill.
In November 2016, three years after the flood, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots from Craig Ferguson of Planet Bluegrass and his LLC. The Lyons Board of Trustees voted in 2015 to waive water and sewer connection fees that they have control over for Habitat for Humanity. The total of about $173,500 in savings helped Habitat for Humanity meet its permitting and fees budget for the Park Street homes, keeping mortgages down to about $150,000 for homeowners.
Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes since the 2013 flood. In March 2015, a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rental homes and some Habitat for Humanity affordable for-sale homes (a total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. After that vote, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rental homes have been pursued, and Summit Housing Group’s planned purchase of land in Lyons Valley Park is the first step toward the building process. 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). 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.
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.