Published in the February 21, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?)
State Housing Board approves Summit application
by Amy Reinholds
The State Housing Board unanimously approved Summit Housing Group’s application for $4 million of federal disaster recovery funds to build 40 affordable rental homes in Lyons, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen reported at the Lyons Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 19.
Summit is under contract with Keith Bell to purchase land in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision, intending to build 11 single family homes on already platted lots and 29 homes in duplex and triplex buildings on Lyons Valley Park Tract A of Filing 8 (about 4 acres) – all rental homes affordable for people who earn 60 percent of the area median or less.
Now that the application was approved for Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds, at a maximum of $100,000 per rental home, $4 million total for 40 residences, the next funding step is a decision expected within a month from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) for the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funding. After Summit completes the purchase of the land from Bell, it can go through the town process for development.
“That is excellent news for affordable housing,” Simonsen said about the approval for CDBG-DR funds.
Mayor Connie Sullivan thanked Simonsen and Mayor Pro Tem Barney Dreistadt for going to Denver to give a presentation to the State Housing Board on Feb. 12. Members of the public also submitted written comments or commented in person at the meeting.
Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., specializes in developing and managing low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. LIHTC funding requires the rentals be affordable to households that earn 60 percent of the area median income or less. Past discussions from Summit representatives have described income levels in the 40 percent of the area median income, about $36,000 for a single person (or more for a larger household size) and up to a five-person household with a $70,000 annual income for 60 percent of the area median income. The area median income changes every year. You can download the 2018 Colorado County Income and Rent Tables at http://leaflyons.org/resources.html. Examples of rent estimates that Summit representatives have given at past meetings for two-bedroom apartments are $906 a month for a 40 percent AMI household, and $1,200 a month for a 60 percent AMI household, varying depending on family size. The property management site for Summit buildings, www.leasehighland.com, shows what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit, including homes in Longmont.
Simonsen told the trustees that she expects the application for the development plan for the 29 multifamily units on Lyons Valley Park Tract A of Filing 8 (about 4 acres) to be submitted in March. It will go through the site development process with Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC), and that process will include public input before both the PCDC and the trustees.
Responding to questions about the proposed timeline, Simonsen said she doesn’t have all the details yet, but that Summit expect to be under construction in June. Public improvements will start while the Tract A development plan work is still in process.
“For the 11 single family homes, the grading plan and drainage plans are already done. Mr. Bell already did that when they were platted,” Simonsen said.
The Town of Lyons joined the Boulder County Consortium of Cities and participated in the Boulder County Housing Partnership’s Regional Housing Strategy at the end of 2017. Simonsen mentioned that some members from that consortium said they would be interested in coming to Lyons to provide information and references about affordable housing, including publishing articles in local papers and holding roundtable discussions.
The trustees also got a brief update about the six Habitat for Humanity homes being built at 112 Park Street. So far, these three duplex buildings are the only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase in Lyons. Six families, who have partnered with Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, will be purchasing the homes later this year. Simonsen said that Habitat for Humanity expects a certificate of occupancy in early March. Because there were a few adjustments in the front porch locations since the Planned Unit Development (PUD) was approved, Simonsen said the town would have to reopen that PUD again and approve it. But she said that PUD approval won’t hold up the certificate of occupancy for the two duplexes that are close to being ready. For more information about Habitat for Humanity, see www.stvrainhabitat.org.
Lyons lost about 76 to 94 destroyed homes in the 2013 flood. In the past five years, several locations were proposed for new affordable housing, as both the local real estate market and rental prices increased. Residents who were here in March 2015 remember the 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), which was rejected in a town-wide vote, 614 to 498. Thankfully, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on Lyons, although the nonprofit was only able to acquire enough land in Lyons to build six for-sale homes. After the March 2015 vote, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals in Lyons were pursued for the $4 million of CDBG-DR funds for affordable housing, and now – almost five and a half years after the flood – those funds were approved for the proposal that Summit submitted for Lyons Valley Park.
This column is a commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.