Published in the June 13, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Colorado’s “Space to Create” artist live-work housing program
by Amy Reinholds
In 2015, Governor John Hickenlooper announced “Space to Create, Colorado,” a state program to develop affordable housing and working space for artists and arts organizations. The program sends a call for applications periodically, for each of Colorado’s Division of Local Affairs regional groups.
This option could still be an opportunity for Lyons. So far a demonstration project was launched in July 2015 in Trinidad, and then Ridgway was the community selected in the Southwest region and Paonia was selected for Northwest region. Last fall, Grand Lake was announced as the community selected in the Northern Colorado region. Lyons is part of the North Central region, which includes Adams, Boulder, Broomfield, Gilpin, Larimer, and Weld counties, and applications have not opened for that region yet.
The communities within each region compete, and the selected towns work with Artspace, the partner for the “Space to Create, Colorado” program, for consulting on feasibility analysis of creative sector workforce space, community engagement work, and an arts market survey.
This is not a grant program where towns win funds. In fact, they have to have to bring some of their own resources to the table such as available property, buildings, and funding, according to Margaret Hunt, director of Colorado Creative Industries in the state’s Office of Economic Development, when I talked to her after the program was first announced. She said the program also looks at concentrations of artists in the community.
To be competitive in this process, Lyons should have a parcel of land ready and possibly some other funding sources. The first step will be an arts market and feasibility study that a community must pay for, Hunt said, regardless of whether a community wins the grant. However, there might be some other state funds to cover those study costs. Hunt said that each project will have unique funding, depending on the town’s resources. The project may or may not include low income housing tax credits or historic preservation tax credits. Feasibility and arts market studies may require $35,000 in local matching funds and the municipality must be the applicant to receive state funding
During the development of the Recovery Action Plan, “artist live-work housing” was a goal, and town officials said they should keep the Space to Create opportunity on the radar. I’m wondering whether any affordable housing that eventually goes on the eastern corridor could work with this program. On the Artspace website I found that “development projects typically involve the adaptive reuse of older buildings but can also involve new construction.”
According to the Space to Create website at coloradocreativeindustries.org/opportunities/space-to-create, criteria for selection of communities includes concentration of creative sector workforce, availability of historic buildings for adaptive re-use, available developable property, commitment of local resources by local governing body, and a demonstrated ability to execute community-based initiatives such as the Main Street and Creative District programs.
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.
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.