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Published in the Oct 11, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder

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

Community members share stories about what has worked, what hasn’t

by Amy Reinholds

Taking time to listen to our neighbors talking about what has worked – and what hasn’t – is a path to better understanding possible solutions to our housing challenges in Lyons.

On Sept. 27, the Lyons Regional Library hosted the “Rental Madness!” community discussion on renting in Lyons. Attendees included representatives from a property management company, a representative from Town of Lyons staff, and community members. Susan Spaulding, Community Relations Specialist for the City of Longmont, and an expert in tenant and landlord issues, brought resources including handouts about landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities, a how-to guide for roommates, and home sharing for seniors.

Several attendees were women in the baby boomer generation who previously were property owners but are now renters in Lyons, and a homeowner preparing to sell a home to have more flexibility and freedom to travel on a fixed income. Another attendee was a homeowner with questions about the requirements and the process for accessory dwelling units in detached buildings on single-family-home lots in the Town of Lyons. She connected with Ian Greer, enforcement officer for the Town of Lyons, to follow up later on questions.

As far as roommates, we learned that the Town of Lyons does have a requirement that no more than three unrelated people can live in a single-family home, similar to other municipalities. Sec. 16-1-160 of Town of Lyons code defines “family” as “a. Any number of persons related by blood, marriage, adoption, guardianship or other duly authorized custodial relationship; or b. Any unrelated group of persons consisting of not more than three persons.” Greer said that the Town of Lyons has received about three complaints since he’s been working for the town about the occupancies of rentals.

Landlords who rent month-to-month or longer leases don’t need to be licensed with the Town of Lyons, but any property owner who rents for shorter periods, for example, for vacation rentals on AirBnB, must get a short-term rental license from the Town of Lyons. Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) or mother-in-law apartments, can’t be used for short-term rentals, because the Town of Lyons wants to encourage lower-cost market rate rentals for people who work in town or who are retired.

A notable anecdote shared at the event was from a woman interested in a new garage apartment being built under the Lyons ADU ordinance. Because of the rental market in Lyons, she found out that the rent would be $1500 a month, way above her budget. Even though I’ve heard people call ADUs “affordable housing” or “low-income housing,” they are still market-rate in the Town of Lyons, and landlords can charge whatever tenants will pay.

The following resource list was shared at the meeting, and more resources will be available at the library. The attendees were polled to see if another session on the topic of rentals and housing options in Lyons would be helpful, and there was support for continuing the series.

Town of Lyons code:

Federal, state, and county resources for tenants and landlords:

Housing rights and discrimination resources:

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 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. After that vote, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals 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) on six residential lots. 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.