Published in the January 17, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Government shutdown may delay funding decisions
by Amy Reinholds
Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen reported to the Lyons Board of Trustees on Jan. 7 that the government shutdown is delaying decisions about funding for Town of Lyons projects to rebuild from the 2013 flood.
“With the government shutdown, several of our [flood reconstruction] projects that are awaiting FEMA approval are now held up from being approved,” Simonsen told the trustees during her Administrator report. She mentioned that the 2nd Avenue bridge was an example.
The government shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history. Annual budget appropriations that are decided by the U.S. Congress were not enacted for federal agencies that had been operating on a series of temporary extensions, and the last extension expired on Dec. 21. The House of Representatives has voted on bills to reopen more closed government departments, but that legislation was declared “dead-on-arrival” in the Republican-controlled Senate because of a veto threat from the president, according to the Washington Post. Of about 800,000 employees in the nine Cabinet departments and various smaller agencies, about 380,000 employees have been furloughed without pay while the rest have been working without pay.
And it’s more than bridges that could be affected by delays in funding. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is one of the agencies that is part of the shutdown, and Simonsen said in her report to trustees that decisions on funding for Summit Housing Group’s applications for 40 affordable rental homes in Lyons could be delayed.
“We continue to meet with Summit every week,” she said. “January is the month set aside to review all the affordable housing applications and approve [federal Low Income Housing] Tax Credits and their funding,” she said. “I have not heard yet what the status is of that decision-making during the shutdown, but it’s all the more reason to call our congresspeople and tell them we have a need here.”
Summit Housing Group, based in Missoula, Mt., specializes in developing and managing low-income tax credit and mixed-use developments in six states, including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. Summit plans to purchase land in the Lyons Valley Park subdivision to build 11 single family homes and 29 homes in duplex and triplex buildings – all rental homes affordable for people who earn 60 percent of the area median or less. Summit is applying for Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds, available at a maximum of $100,000 per rental home, up to $4 million for the proposed total 40 residences (29 homes in duplexes and triplexes, and 11 single-family homes). This funding, as well as federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) helps subsidize the rents to be affordable. Typically, applications are reviewed in January, and the LIHTC is awarded in February.
For the rental homes that Summit Housing Group is proposing, the income levels of renters would be 60 percent of the area median income or less. Past discussions from Summit representatives have described income levels in the 40 percent of the area median income, about $36,000 for a single person (or more for a larger household size) and up to a five-person household with a $70,000 annual income for 60 percent of the area median income. The area median income changes every year. You can download the 2018 Colorado County Income and Rent Tables at www.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. The property management site for Summit buildings, www.leasehighland.com, shows what the applications are like for other rentals built by Summit in six states, including homes in Longmont.
Lyons lost about 76 to 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 and sewer customer accounts, 94 customer accounts were lost after the flood (including the 32 homes in Riverbend Mobile Home Park that were originally part of one sewer customer account). 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.
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 disaster recovery funds were still set aside for affordable housing in Lyons. After that vote, a few concepts for subsidized affordable rentals have been pursued, but Summit’s plan to purchase of the land in Lyons Valley Park is the first step toward that building process. So far, the only post-flood, permanently affordable housing actually in the construction phase is at 112 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. To volunteer or to donate to Habitat for Humanity construction costs in Lyons, go to www.stvrainhabitat.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.