Published in the July 18, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Amended Habitat for Humanity PUD plan passes Planning Commission
by Amy Reinholds
The Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) passed a resolution on July 11, recommending that the town’s Board of Trustees approve an amended PUD Development Plan for 112, 114, and 116 Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is completing three duplex buildings. The amendments were minor: the locations of the porches for the six homes and the location of the 4th bedrooms in the two larger homes in the middle duplex changed slightly.
There was no public comment and not much discussion from the PCDC commissioners other than to say that they supported these permanently affordable homes in Lyons. They also recommended that adopting language in the PUD that would allow town administrative approval for any other small future changes if needed. That way Habitat for Humanity staff won’t have to come back for a formal vote again before both the PCDC and the Trustees for any more minor modifications. The first duplex at 112 Park Street was completed in April, and one of the homes in the western-most duplex was completed at the end of last month. These homes are the first new permanently affordable housing constructed after more than five years of determination from the community and Habitat for Humanity after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons.
The other three homes are finishing up this summer. More volunteer help – especially on weekdays – is still needed to complete the homes so the selected applicants can close on purchasing their homes and move in. 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. At www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction, after clicking FLOOD REBUILD-LYONS, volunteers can sign up for any of the volunteer shifts when they are available. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon at 303-682-2485.
These homes are the first new permanently affordable housing constructed after more than five years of determination from the community and Habitat for Humanity after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons.
At the July 11 PCDC meeting, Stephen Scott, construction director of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, explained that the amended plan made the 4th bedrooms in the middle, larger, duplex accessible. Preparing for future homeowners with disabilities or to age in place meant moving those bedrooms to the first floor, and building accessible ramps in the part of the property in the floodplain required longer ramps. He also said that modifications in the porch locations for all six homes both met firewall requirements to separate by at least 10 feet and even improved the community aspect of the buildings.
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 Lyons homes were selected by April 2018, and several friends and family members helped donate volunteer hours over the past year 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. The 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.
Lyons lost about 76 to 94 flood-destroyed homes since the September 2013 flood (homes not rebuilt either because of government buy-out programs that preserve the land as open space or because of the rezoning of one of the former mobile home parks to commercial use as an event and lodging venue). 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. But Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on the Town of Lyons, continuing the discussion with possible available land in Lyons, and eventually purchasing the land at 2nd and Park from Craig Ferguson and his Planet Bluegrass partners in the fall of 2016.
This permanently affordable home-ownership model for six homes is a success for Lyons. But permanently affordable rentals are also needed to make up for homes that were lost in the flood. A few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals were pursued after the 2015 proposal failed, but nothing got very far in the process. A total of $4 million in federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons. In February of this year, the State Housing Board approved an application from Summit Housing Group to use the $4 million for a proposal to build 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on land the company plans to buy in Lyons Valley Park. Because federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits are also planned for funding those total 40 proposed homes, all would be required to be rented to households that earn 60 percent or less of the area median income.
If these rental homes come to fruition, Lyons will finally have a total of 46 new affordable homes post-flood. The town would be about half way to adding back homes that were not rebuilt after the 2013 flood.
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.