Published in the February 22, 2018, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Trustees approve purchase agreement for 19617 N St. Vrain Drive
by Amy Reinholds
In the past year and half, 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. A third possible location was announced Feb. 20, when the trustees approved a purchase and sale agreement with James D. Van Court for the town to purchase a little over 2 acres at 19617 N. St. Vrain Drive.
The trustees voted 6-0, passing a resolution to approve the sales agreement. After an appraisal to determine the purchase price, the next step will be to see if the seller accepts the agreement, Mayor Connie Sullivan said at the meeting Tuesday night. The parcel would need to be annexed into the Town of Lyons, and if zoned as R-3, it could contain about up to about 23 units, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen told the trustees.
Other than the 6 Habitat for Humanity homes underway at 2nd and Park, there are no other confirmed affordable residential units planned, although there are two other possibilities that could make use of the federal funds.
First, on January 16, the trustees heard from a partnership proposing to purchase town-own land east of Colo. Hwy. 66 and U.S. 36 for 45 affordable housing units for rent (built and managed by Thistle), agricultural food production with vertical greenhouses, a farm grocery, and a commercial kitchen. The trustees were supportive of town staff continuing to work with the partnership to gather more info.
Then on Jan. 29, the trustees approved a resolution authorizing a purchase and sale agreement that gives the Town of Lyons an option to buy Tract A of Lyons Valley Park Filing 8, already intended for 43 units of multifamily housing. The difference is that instead of just market-rate multifamily housing sometime in the future, the Town of Lyons might be able to leverage the federal CDBG disaster recovery funds to purchase Tract A and partner with an affordable housing developer to build units that are affordable to households that earn 60 percent of the area-median income or less. The town signed a joint letter of intent between Keith Bell, president of Lyons Valley Park, Inc., who lives in Kansas, and David Wickum of Wickum Properties and Realty. It states the Town of Lyons intends to purchase Tract A and work with public and private sectors to replace some of the housing lost in the 2013 flood, and that Wickum intends to purchase Lots 15-32 of Block 2 to develop single-family housing. If either Wickum or the Town of Lyons discontinues pursuing an intended purchase, Bell and Lyons Valley Park, Inc., will negotiate with the other party for a possible purchase. A request for proposals (RFP) for affordable housing developers who are interested in partnering with the town for the Tract A parcel in Lyons Valley Park went out on Feb. 2, with a due date of March 5. Interviews with the applicants are expected starting March 8, with a final recommended selection going to the trustees by March 12.
Now, with a sales agreement for the 2.13 acres at 19617 N. St. Vrain Drive, which is next to the Baseline-Mocon industrial parcel and near the Eagle Canyon subdivision, if the seller accepts the agreement, and the town decides to move forward, the Town of Lyons could also put out an RFP for affordable housing developers who are interested in partnering with the town for this parcel. According to the agreement, the purchase price will be equivalent to the fair market value as determined by an appraisal. The town will get an appraisal of the property by the end of the month, considering the value of the property both “as-is” and as if it were annexed into the Town of Lyons and connected to town utilities. The sales agreement is on the Town of Lyons website at www.townoflyons.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/3590?fileID=8168.
Lyons can receive a maximum of $40,000 in CDBG-DR funds per each new affordable housing unit (up to $4 million total if a maximum of 100 new affordable housing units are built somewhere in town). Lyons could be close to getting that full funding, if all proposed projects happen.
In terms of federal and state funding, “affordable housing” typically means either rentals or for-sale homes that are affordable to people who make 60 percent of the area median income or less. Right now, 60 percent of the area median income is about $42,000 a year for an individual or $48,000-$50,000 for a two-person household. For that income range of 60 percent of the area median income, the monthly housing costs or rent that is affordable is around $1,300, depending on family size. To be “affordable,” housing costs should not be more than 30 percent of a household gross income.
The Town of Lyons currently has a total of 26 permanently affordable rentals (already in Lyons 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. The only in-progress post-flood affordable housing is at 2nd Avenue and Park Street where Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is building six homes (in three duplexes) on land the non-profit purchased at the end of 2016. To volunteer, sign up at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction.
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 lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.