Published in the April 18, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.

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

Planning Commission gets an update on Summit’s proposal for Lyons Valley Park

by Amy Reinholds

On April 8, Town Planner Paul Glasgow gave an update to the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) about the affordable housing that Summit Housing Group proposes building in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision. He said Summit will probably complete the purchase of the land in June and submit a development plan to the town within a few months for the multifamily buildings on Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8.

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 mulitfamily 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.

On Feb. 12, the State Housing Board approved Summit Housing Group’s application for $4 million of federal disaster recovery funds to build those 40 total affordable rental homes in Lyons. Glasgow reported to the PCDC commissioners that Summit has received the official award letter. 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 from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) for the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funding. Glasgow told the commissioners that CHFA had some questions related to the tax-credit funding request but that Summit did not expect problems. Summit applied for the more flexible, less-competitive, “4 percent” federal LIHTC program. The LIHTC program gives investors a reduction in their federal tax liability based on the amount 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. For details about LIHTC, see chfainfo.com/arh/lihtc/overview.

Glasgow said that Summit will probably complete the purchase of the land from Bell in June and start the town process for development. The development process for the 11 single-family homes is like all others already platted in the subdivision and elsewhere in Lyons, requiring a permitting and development process with the Town of Lyons.

The development plan for the 29 apartments in multifamily buildings on Lyons Valley Park Tract A is expected to be submitted within a few months, Glasgow told the PCDC commissioners. [UPDATE: At the April 22 PCDC meeting, Glasgow told the commissioners that Summit representatives said they were about three weeks away from submitting a development plan for the Tract A development.]

“The development review for the multifamily buildings has to come to you,” he said. The development plan will go through the site development review process with PCDC, and that process will include public input before both the PCDC and the trustees and official “public hearing” meetings.

The six PCDC commissioners at the meeting April 8 talked about possibly meeting more than twice a month to keep up with all the required public hearings for both Summit and other work on their schedule for the rest of this year.

Glasgow and the PCDC commissioners discussed briefly how Summit is trying to voluntarily comply with HOA guidelines for the buildings, to make them match the styles of the single-family homes already in the Lyon Valley Park subdivision.

Glasgow also said that Summit is “avoiding development on the hill as much as possible.” Not only does that kind of construction cost more, but homeowners in Lyons Valley Park have given input to Summit in various meetings that they do not want blasting on that hilly, rocky area. According to what Summit representatives have stated at past meetings with the neighborhood, only about 2.9 of those 4 acres of Lyons Valley Park Tract A of Filing 8 are buildable, which means the remaining space on that Tract A would remain undeveloped.

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. 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. The area median income changes every year, but you can download the 2018 Colorado County Income and Rent Tables at 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.

Lyons lost about 76 to 94 destroyed homes in 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. However, $4 million of federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons, and the State Housing Board voted in February to approve Summit Housing Group’s application for those funds for building 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Until Summit’s proposal, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued, but nothing got very far in the process. The only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112, 114, and 116 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. The first duplex was completed in April 2019.

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.