Published in the May 30, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Summer reading list revisited
by Amy Reinholds
This week’s column is a revised version of a column that originally ran in the Lyons Recorder on June 22, 2017.
Want some relaxing beach or riverside reading this summer? I like books that entertain but also help me learn about our society, step inside someone else’s shoes, and inspire me with approaches that work.
So here is my affordable-housing-related summer reading list. Comments and suggestions are welcome at the my email address listed at the end of the column.
The Revolution Where You Live, by Sarah van Gelder. I’ve previously reviewed this book, and it encourages me that local communities – if residents gather together – can accomplish some good on the local level. Pick your favorite action out of “101 ways to reclaim local power” and talk to your neighbors. I’d be glad to join in. You can read my review at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/solving-big-problems-by-building-local-community.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond. When I was at the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado in 2017, many people were talking about Hillbilly Elegy, but one of the presenters suggested that Evicted is a top-notch book and recommended it for the conference discussion book for next year. I started reading it and was struck by the detailed and succinct descriptions of both tenants and landlords in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I feel like the people Desmond depicts are family or friends I visit with across a kitchen table or sit next to in their cars as they drive to collect rent. Desmond’s writing transports the reader to the cold, snowy neighborhoods, into the lives of people struggling to make a living. You can read my coverage of Matthew Desmond speaking in Colorado at https://lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com/2018/10/19/eviction-author-matthew-desmond-advises-expanding-housing-vouchers/.
Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, by Natasha Trethewey. This book is also on my wish list. Those of us who lived through the Lyons 2013 flood might find some common ground with smaller communities who went through Hurricane Katrina, experiencing loss and the long journey to recovery.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein. According to Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, there is a clear history of local, state, and federal housing policies mandating housing segregation based on race. The book shows that actions of the Federal Housing Administration, established in 1934, increased segregation, and it discusses the lasting effects of those actions on American society today.
The Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It, by Richard Reeves. I first heard the author interviewed on the On Point NPR podcast, and last summer, I had a chance to read his book. It’s so common for Americans to view the top 1 percent of the wealthiest people in our country as the main problem, but Reeves presents statistics that show that it’s actually the richest 20 percent of American society that is splitting society into the upper middle class and everyone else. The upper middle class – families with professional jobs – see society as merit-based, but they use every tool available to preserve the economic future of their own children, often at the expense of other people’s children. Reeves, who reveals he is a member of the upper middle class, discusses exclusionary zoning, college savings plans and admissions policies, and other local and federal policies that help the upper middle class hoard the American Dream for themselves and their own families.
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund. I learned that Bill Gates gave away copies of this book to all 2018 college graduates. He said the book describes ten instincts that keep us from seeing the world factfully, and then gives practical advice on how to overcome our biases. The instincts include fear (paying more attention to what scares us), size (being impressed by standalone numbers without comparison and context), and gap (expecting extreme differences, when most people fall somewhere in between). I’m looking forward to reading this book and learning what I can from it, even if I learn that I’m wrong.
Chief Left Hand, by Margaret Coel. As the price of real estate skyrockets in the Lyons area, do you ever wonder about people who lived on the land before us? Many of us heard of “Chief Niwot’s Curse” when we first came to Boulder County, like I did when I was an intern at the Boulder Daily Camera, visiting from Illinois in 1991. It was rumored he said the beauty of the area causes you to return and never leave (although after reading this book I found there is no evidence he said these words). Many of us do not know any more about Chief Niwot (which means Chief Left Hand, translated to English) and the Southern Arapaho and other native people who lived in the area. I wanted to read this book ever since I heard Boulder libraries had selected it for a community-wide book discussion a few years ago. The book describes rivers including the north and south St. Vrain, and even mentions an area of present day Lyons. Follow the travels of tribes across the landscape now covered by our businesses, highways, and suburban neighborhoods. Gain understanding into the heartbreaking story of how European-American settlers moving west – seeking their own better way of life – affected the land, the animals, and the native people of Colorado. The stories of settlers, military troops, government officials, gold-seekers, and multiple Native American tribes are intertwined.
Latinos of Boulder County, Colorado, Volume I: History and Contributions and Volume II: Lives and Legacies, by Marjorie K. McIntosh. Still thinking about the people who lived on this land before we did, there are many books about immigrants who moved to the West. I’m interested in new books by Marjorie McIntosh, a retired CU professor, about people from Southern Colorado, New Mexico, Mexico, and Latin America who moved to Boulder County from 1900 to 1980. Her work includes stories and oral history from area families, some interviewed by their family’s younger generations. The Lyons Redstone Museum hopes to get Marjorie McIntosh and the Boulder County Latino Project to speak at the museum in the future. I got both volumes and am looking forward to reading at least one before an event is scheduled in Lyons.
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 two duplex 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. For any questions, contact Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, at 303-682-2485 x 102 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.