So how did this What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons? mission of mine get started? Why did I become stubbornly optimistic that new affordable housing could work in Lyons, Colo., our town of less than 2,000 people, still recovering after devastating flooding in September 2013?
You could say it all started when a majority of Town of Lyons voters in a March 2015 special election mail ballot voted down a proposal for 50-70 affordable housing units proposed for 5-7 acres in the Bohn Park. The vote was 614 against the proposal and 498 for the proposal. That’s when I gathered together people who said they had other ideas that would work better and encouraged them to get to work. That’s when I pledged to write a WTF column in every edition of the weekly Lyons Recorder and in the monthly Redstone Review until new affordable housing is created in Lyons. I’m still writing those columns.
Or, maybe it all started when I joined the Housing Recovery Task Force in the months following the flood, in December 2013. I embarked on a series of volunteering on town advisory boards and commissions, attending marathon meetings, learning about flood recovery, resilience, other communities’ disaster stories, relief organizations, and government agencies and regulations.
But just as natural disasters change everyone they touch in a community, the widespread floods of September 2013 in Colorado were the original instigator of my current calling as an advocate, reporter, fact-checker, and town crier for affordable housing.
Thanks for reading, for sharing your stories, for dedicating your time, and for daring to hope with me,
Note: There was a lot of “fake news” on local social media groups during that special Town of Lyons election in 2015 (back before the term became a buzzword at the national level, related to the current White House administration). My goal is to present facts about affordable housing and what it means for Lyons, Colorado.
For example, 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.
Awarded first place for best news series in the 2016 Colorado Press Association Awards for a series of “What’s the fix for affordable housing in Lyons?” columns published in the Redstone Review (Class 10 category of monthly publications, up to 50,000 circulation)