It takes years to rebuild lost housing stock in Lyons
COMMENTARY: Affordable Housing in Lyons
Published in the Sept. 18, 2019, edition of the Redstone Review.
By Amy Reinholds
LYONS – Six years ago this month, raging flood waters from the North and South St. Vrain destroyed nearly 100 homes in Lyons in the span of a day. But as we have seen, it takes years to rebuild what was lost.
It took more than four years since the first spark of an idea in 2015 until the first four of the six Habitat for Humanity homes at 2nd and Park Street were completed and four new homeowners purchased them and moved in. On the sixth anniversary of the flood, one duplex building out of the three is still under construction. And these completed Habitat for Humanity homes came after an original 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 combined) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498.
So I’m not surprised that a proposal from Summit Housing Group to build 11 single family homes and 29 homes in multifamily buildings (all affordable rentals) that began to take shape in early 2018 is not farther along.
Summit Housing Group, based in Missoula, Mt., is under contract with landowner Keith Bell to purchase land in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision, intending to build 11 single-family homes on already platted lots and 29 homes in multifamily buildings on Lyons Valley Park Tract A of Filing 8 (about 4 acres). All of those 40 rental homes must be affordable for households at 60 percent of the area median 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 earlier this spring and summer. However, at an Aug. 26 meeting of the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC), Town Planner Paul Glasgow said the Summit is taking longer on the development plan for the 29 homes in multifamily buildings. He told the commission that the development plan probably won’t come in until the end of September. [Update Oct 7, 2019: Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen reported to the Trustees that the Town Planner received more information from Summit about the schedule. Summit representatives told the Town Planner that they will be closing on the purchase by the end of October and allowing for 90 days of engagement with the public and town processes such as the development plan with PCDC for the multifamily homes. Summit plans construction to begin in February 2020 and take about 12-14 months to complete, with the single family homes completed much sooner. ]
The development process for the 11 single-family homes 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 29 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 PCDC, including public input at official “public hearing” meetings. 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 in the proposal.
Glasgow told the PCDC at last month’s meeting that Summit is taking longer than expected going through a fiscal impact analysis, which would probably take a month to complete. He said the analysis, part of the development plan to be submitted to the town, includes aspects such as cost of development, gains to the town, property millage, and sales tax income. At the Sept. 16 Board of Trustees meeting, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen said that Summit representatives “decided to extend their closing date with Mr. Bell to the end of October.”
In February of this year, the State Housing Board approved Summit’s application for $4 million of federal CDBG-DR funds to build those 11 single-family and 29 multifamily rental homes in Lyons. The application was approved at a maximum of $100,000 per home, $4 million total for the 40 total residences.
Then on May 21, the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) approved tax credits and bonds for Summit’s proposal. Simonsen has reported to the Board of Trustees that the CHFA approval is a preliminary award that allows the development project to sell the tax credits and bonds to the public. The federal LIHTC program gives investors a reduction in their federal tax liability based on the amount 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.
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, www.leasehighland.com, 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 download the 2018 Colorado County Income and Rent Tables at leaflyons.org/resources.html. 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.
Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Housing and Human Services Commission. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995. She writes a monthly commentary (opinion column) in the Redstone Review about affordable housing after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. For a history, previous columns are available on her blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.