Published in the April 19, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Updates on affordable housing proposals
by Amy Reinholds
Although not on the agenda for this week’s Lyons Board of Trustees meeting, there are a few updates about affordable housing in Lyons.
Lyons Valley Park proposal
Summit Housing Group, which was assigned the purchase and sale agreement to purchase Lyons Valley Park, Filing 8, Tract A from Keith Bell earlier this month, is completing due diligence tasks, including appraisals and geotechnical engineering assessments. Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen said that Summit will have to make a decision within a week on whether to move forward with the proposal for 43 affordable rental homes.
May 1 is the deadline for a letter of intent for applying for the higher level of federal tax-credit financing.
The federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program is a source of funding that helps developers build rental homes at lower cost. The higher subsidy of tax credits to cover 70 percent of the costs of affordable units in a project (also referred to as “9 percent tax credits”) has a final application deadline of June 1.
The LIHTC gives investors a reduction in their federal tax liability for every dollar 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.
If Summit does not get the higher “9 percent tax credits” financing option, then the lower “4-percent tax credits” are available with a longer, more flexible timeline. The so-called “4 percent tax credits” program has more flexible deadlines, and more options to apply, but it only covers 30 percent of the costs of affordable rentals in a development, and the affordable housing developers must find other sources of funding to make the project work.
The next step for Summit is a development plan that goes through the process with the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC), which includes public input. The architect from Summit also plans community outreach activities.
Lyons Valley Village, a co-housing community, is an example of existing multifamily buildings in Lyons Valley Park that are compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. According to research from Town of Lyons staff and attorneys reported at the April 2 Board of Trustees meeting, Summit’s proposed development will follow the same process as Lyons Valley Village did in the early 2000s because the title commitment for both Lyons Valley Village and Filing 8, Tract A explicitly says “subject to PRD,” which was used in 1969-1979 to allow multi-family housing, aligning with today’s PUD zoning. The consulting attorneys for the town reviewed the documentation and say it stands, which means that the Filing 8, Tract A does not require rezoning, can follow the same process that Lyons Valley Village followed. If Summit decides to move forward after all due diligence steps, the next step is a development plan with the PCDC.
Summit Housing Group won a request for proposals process last month, after a selection committee, including representatives from the PCDC and the Lyons Valley Park homeowners association, brought forward two finalists. Summit, based in Missoula, Mt., is a development company that specializes in low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments. It develops and manages rental properties in 6 states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, all which include portions affordable to people who make 60% of the area median incomes or less. The latest homes in Colorado are at 1205 Pace St. in Longmont.
The proposal for Lyons includes a total of 43 rental homes (one is for the on-site property manager) in 12 buildings that are two stories. The buildings include 24 two-bedroom/2 bath, 1200 s.f. homes and 19 three-bedroom/2 bath, 1500 s.f. homes. In contrast to the 12 buildings proposed by Summit, about 25 large, market-rate, single-family homes could be built on the same land, according to Clay Dusel, a Lyons Valley Park resident and a PCDC commissioner, who spoke at a March 12 meeting.
If Summit can meet the June 1 deadline for a higher subsidy of federal tax credits for investors, more of the 42 rentals could be set aside for households who earn 30-50 percent of the area median income. A presentation from Rusty Snow of Summit to the trustees at a March 12 meeting showed that 30 percent of the area median income means a range of $20,640-$31,830 annual income for a one- to five-person household, and the range of affordable monthly rents for that income, based on household size, starts at $552-$766. And 50 percent of the area median income means a range of $34,400-$53,050 annual income for a one- to five-person household, and the range of affordable monthly rents for that income, based on household size, starts at $921-$1276.
If Summit can only get the lower level of tax credits, most of the rentals would be for households that earn 50-60 percent of the area median income. The rentals could be intended for households that earn as much as 60 percent of the area median income, which means a range of $41,280-$63,660 annual income for a one- to five-person household. The range of affordable monthly rents for that income, based on household size, starts at $1033-$1532.
In the past two years, the Lyons Board of Trustees has been trying to find land for affordable housing, to not lose $4 million in federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds set aside for Lyons. Other federal funds were lost in 2015 when 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 units) was rejected in a town vote: 498 Lyons voters supported it, and 614 Lyons voters opposed it. However, with $4 million still reserved for Lyons in the years that followed, the trustees have been pursuing several smaller options for housing.
9617 N. St. Vrain Drive purchase agreement
Another possible purchase of land for affordable housing in Lyons is 19617 N. St. Vrain Drive, 2.13 acres in Boulder County next to the Baseline-Mocon industrial parcel and near the Eagle Canyon subdivision. Simonsen said this week that the sales agreement is still active, pending further assessment.
There are currently 26 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. The only post-flood affordable housing currently being built is at 2nd Avenue and Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building three duplexes (a total of 6 homes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016. To volunteer, sign up at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction.
The Town of Lyons lost about 76-94 flood-destroyed homes. To get an accurate number of housing stock lost in the September 2013 flood, there are two ways to count. First, according to counts of Town of Lyons water taps/customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (taking into account the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one water tap). However, some of those customer accounts were on Apple Valley Road (not in town limits), and some lots in town have more than one water tap/customer account. A second way to count is the number of flood-damaged homes in the Town of Lyons lost to both the federal buyout programs and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use), which totals 76 lost residential units. Federal buyouts totaled 44 units – including all residential units in the Foothills Mobile Home Park – and there were also 32 families who lost homes in the Riverbend Mobile Home Park, which was rezoned as a commercial wedding and lodging venue after the flood.
This column is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing after the September 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at http://lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.