COMMENTARY: What’s The Future For Affordable Housing In Lyons?
By Amy Reinholds
Funding sources could be delayed for potential new affordable housing in the planning area east of town, but Lyons did receive funds for land-use planning for areas including the eastern corridor, Town Staff reported at a Monday Board of Trustees (BOT) workshop.
A Colorado Heritage Grant was finalized that pays for a recovery planner to work for Lyons for eighteen months, leading that planning process, and Matt Manley was hired for the position. A land-use planning process that includes public engagement for the vision for the eastern corridor is expected to start in a few months. Three
Boulder County areas that are in the Lyons Planning Area, allowed to be annexed into town in the future, will be part of the land-use planning: the Apple Valley area to the north of town limits, the County Road 69 area to the south of town limits, and the eastern corridor area along Hwy 66 to the east of Hwy 36.
At Monday’s workshop with the Trustees, Housing Recovery Coordinator Cody Humphrey and Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen told the Trustees about changes in dates for funding sources. Lyons has applied for $6.75 million from the National Disaster Resiliency Competition, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD), for a Lyons Resilient Replacement Housing development proposal. The competition originally planned to announce what states have received funds by the end of January, but now that announcement was pushed out to the end of February. Also, Lyons learned that the State of Colorado has added another process to distribute whatever funds might be awarded to Colorado, which might take until the end of June.
Although disappointed in the delay, Trustees and Staff discussed the advantages of waiting to have the land-use planning done first, instead of after a proposal for affordable housing was further under way. “If the planning process is completed first, then the Town can annex and zone the parcels based on zoning that was deemed appropriate,” Humphrey said. “I want to have a good project, and these steps are necessary for that.”
Trustee Connie Sullivan and other Trustees agreed. She said the earlier work to apply for resiliency competition wouldn’t be lost. “I’m glad that including housing in the vision for the eastern corridor was brought forward so it can be part of the planning discussion,” she said. The current Lyons Comprehensive Plan defines the eastern corridor to be mainly for commercial and business use, although housing for workforce to support new jobs is listed as secondary.
The Town has option-to-buy contracts for two parcels on the eastern corridor: the former Longmont water treatment land on the north and south sides of Hwy 66, and the Ernst property, Shady Lane mobile home park, near the eastern intersection of Highland Drive and Hwy 66.
Low-income tax credit financing, another common source of funding for affordable housing developers (both public and private developers), requires that land is acquired, annexed to town, and zoned. Although there are two parcels under contract, it would be challenging for them to be annexed and zoned by this year’s June deadline for those tax credits. Humphrey said that 2017 might be a more reasonable time for developers in Lyons to apply.
Lyons has applied for another source of funding, federal Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), in the third round, in the Infrastructure category, which can be used to purchase the old Longmont water treatment land, but other CDBG-DR funds cannot be used to acquire property.
The timing of sources of funding is tricky to make developing affordable housing work. However, Monday night’s discussion also covered options and flexibility. When Humphrey was asked if it would be feasible to continue to pursue affordable housing in the eastern corridor if Lyons doesn’t receive the $6.75 million from the National Disaster Resiliency Competition, or receives only a portion, he said there were still options. The Longmont water treatment plan land would still be acquired with the other third-round of disaster recovery funds, the project could be scaled down to a smaller size, other funds could be found, and the debt component for developers could be increased.
The Trustees asked for some contingency plans and a range of different scenarios of what could be possible if Lyons doesn’t win the resiliency competition funds applied for. They asked for groundwork ahead of time to be ready to act on plans that are feasible, whenever the funding is announced.
The public hearing for the final subdivision and PUD zoning plan for Park Street and Second Avenue for six proposed Habitat for Humanity homes was not added to the January 4 BOT agenda, as previously expected. It was tentatively scheduled for the Tuesday, January 19 BOT meeting (Monday, January 18, is Martin Luther King Day). Read my columns later this month for updates.
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 Human Services and Aging Commission and serves as a liaison to the special housing committee. She has lived in Lyons for twelve years and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.