Published in the January 23, 2020, edition of the new Lyons Recorder.
Opinion column: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
An update on Summit’s proposal for affordable rentals in Lyons Valley Park
By Amy Reinholds
The Lyons community has been supportive of six Habitat for Humanity affordable for-sale homes in town, under construction since the 2013 flood. Affordable rental homes are needed just as much in Lyons, if not more, and I hope new taxpayer-subsidized affordable rentals can finally become a reality in town.
For two years, I’ve been following a proposal from Summit Housing Group to purchase land in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision to build a total of 40 rentals (both in multi-family buildings and on single-family-home lots that are already platted). Summit, based in Missoula, MT, is under contract with landowner Keith Bell to purchase both Tract A of Filing 8 for multifamily buildings, and all the existing platted single-family-home lots in the subdivision. All of the proposed rental homes must be affordable for households at 60 percent of the area median income or less, required by the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funding that Summit plans to use.
Summit has approval for both federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds and tax-credit and bond funding for the proposal, approved by Colorado agencies in the spring and summer of 2019. However, since then, delays on Summit’s development plan for Tract A have pushed out dates repeatedly. The sales contract date with Bell was pushed out, and deadlines for using federal disaster recovery funds were extended.
The public got an update from Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen at the Jan. 21 Lyons Board of Trustees meeting. Summit president Rusty Snow is unable to attend the next few Board of Trustees meetings, she said, but Summit plans to have a new development plan “submittal packet” before the end of January. She said that Snow plans to present an update to the trustees in February.
“After approved for completeness, the public process starts,” Simonsen said. She explained that Snow “told me they now have an option with Mr. Bell to purchase all of the available residential parcels in Lyons Valley Park. They are revising their plans to include more single-family housing [reducing the number of apartments], and that’s why they are revising their submittal.” The site plan was previously for 11 single-family homes and 29 multifamily homes. Based on previous discussions, the new number of proposed rental homes might be more like 19 single-family homes and 21 apartments, however these numbers have not yet been confirmed with a final development plan from Summit.
The development process for the rental homes on platted single-family home lots that Summit proposes is like all others already platted in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision and elsewhere in Lyons, requiring a permitting and development process with the Town of Lyons. However, the development plan for the apartments in multifamily buildings on Lyons Valley Park Tract A is a longer process. The development plan will go through the site development review process with the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC), including public input at official public hearing meetings.
“They got an extension (to September) with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for the Disaster Recovery funding, and I did confirm that with the state,” Simonsen told the trustees. “They still want to start construction this summer.”
In February 2019, the State of Colorado Housing Board approved Summit’s application for CDBG-DR funds (at a maximum of $100,000 per home, $4 million total for 40 total rental homes). In May 2019, the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) approved tax credits and bonds for Summit’s proposal.
Simonsen’s administrator’s report on Tuesday also stated that after the development plan materials are reviewed for completeness, they will be made available to the public.
As part of earlier engagements with Lyons residents, representatives from Summit held public meetings in the Lyons Valley Park neighborhood (at Lyons Middle/Senior High School) in May and September 2018, where they answered questions and collected input from neighbors and other surrounding residents of Lyons. Based on input at the first of those meetings, Summit reduced the number of multifamily homes (apartments) in the proposal. This latest information presented to the trustees this week shows they are still reducing the number of apartments, keeping the total proposed rentals at 40 total.
Summit specializes in developing and managing low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. The property management site for Summit buildings shows what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit, including homes in Longmont. The area median income (AMI) changes every year, and varies depending on the number of people in a household, but you can see median income tables on the Lyons Emergency & Assistance Fund (LEAF) website. 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.
I hope Summit can follow through with building these homes–and that the Lyons community will support this affordable housing. Adding 40 affordable rentals into the Town of Lyons would make solid progress in replacing the nearly 100 homes destroyed in the 2013 flood.