Published in the July 25, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Housing + transportation should not exceed 45% of monthly income
by Amy Reinholds
My column usually focuses solely on affordable housing, but this week I want to share a connection with affordability of where people live and their transportation costs.
The Boulder County transportation department includes a “Mobility for All” program. At a recent meeting, I picked up a sticker that has a picture of a house, a plus sign, and a picture of a bus and the words “should not exceed 45 percent of monthly income.” Within the affordable housing discussion, people’s housing costs are said to be “affordable” if they are 30 percent or less of their monthly income. This additional way of looking at overall affordability in a region like Boulder County means that both these kinds of expenses – housing and transportation – should only be 15 percent more of someone’s monthly costs – a total of 45 percent.
You can learn more about Boulder County Mobility for All at www.bouldercounty.org/transportation/multimodal/mobilityforall, which includes research and several programs, addressing a wide range of issues including the need for transportation for people who can’t afford cars or who don’t drive because of disabilities or age. One exciting announcement is that representatives from Lyons are participating in a working group that is shaping a new volunteer driver program for mountain communities in Boulder County.
For several years, the Town of Lyons volunteer advisory board that I serve on, the Lyons Housing and Human Services Commission, has been looking for opportunities to improve transportation options for people who live in the 80540 area. It can be very discouraging, with limited RTD bus service and not many other user-friendly transportation options for the aging population.
That’s why our commission was glad to hear that Boulder County Mobility for All knew that other mountain towns had similar issues – and they got a grant to do something about it. The grant covers creating a business plan for a technology-based volunteer driver program for mountain communities and curriculum development to help older adults and people with disabilities overcome technology barriers (for example, using computers and smart phones) to access transportation services like including ride sharing apps.
The Mobility for All team is holding monthly focus group meetings throughout the rest of 2019 to develop a volunteer driver program in the mountain communities of Allenspark, Gold Hill, Jamestown, Lyons, Nederland, and Ward. Lyons is sending representatives from our community who would use a volunteer driver program to get rides, as well as people who work or volunteer with the Town of Lyons or human services agencies like the Lyons Emergency & Assistance Fund (LEAF). The monthly meetings rotate among the participating mountain communities. Everyone in Lyons community is welcome to attend the meeting when it comes to Lyons, probably in November of this year. We will spread the word when the meeting is scheduled.
If you want to learn more about how you can get involved, reach out to me, the acting chair of the Lyons Housing & Human Services Commission, or to any of the other volunteer commissioners, listed at www.townoflyons.com/197/Housing-Human-Services-Commission. When you go to that page, you will also see that we have one open seat for a volunteer commissioner. We would love to have you if you are called to that avenue of participating in our community. Our meetings are the second Tuesday of every month, from 3:30-5pm at Lyons Town Hall.
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, deed-restricted, 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, and more volunteer help is needed to finish the other buldings. 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. Help is most needed on weekdays. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, at 303-682-2485.
There are 26 existing 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.
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.