Bringing Habitat for Humanity homes to Lyons was a long journey that started in 2014, after the devastating flooding that destroyed nearly 100 homes in town the previous fall. Six years later, during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the third and final Habitat for Humanity duplex building was completed at Second Avenue and Park Street, and the families who purchased those two townhomes received their keys. The term “stay-at-home” now has a different meaning for these new homeowners, despite the strange times we live in.
In March, after the State of Colorado Stay-at-Home order to prevent spread of the virus was issued, Rebecca Shannon, Community Engagement Manager for Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, said that volunteering was suspended but that Habitat staff were continuing to work because construction (and specifically construction of affordable housing) is considered “essential.” “Fortunately, our own staff are able to keep building, even if we’re not comfortable hosting volunteers–especially with mostly indoor work,” she said.
A couple of weeks ago, Executive Director David Emerson said they were getting close to complete. “There may be a subcontractor finishing up the landscaping, but we should have a Certificate of Occupancy any day now as we finished inspections and punch lists.” Emerson gave periodic video updates from the building sites. Then on April 17, Habitat for Humanity posted this short video celebration announcement. I hope that when it is safe for group celebration events again, we can all look forward to a neighborhood picnic.
Lyons has lost about 76 to 94 homes since the September 2013 flood. These were homes not rebuilt either because of government buy-out programs that preserve the land as open space or because of the rezoning of one of the former mobile home parks to commercial use as an event and lodging venue. In March 2015, a proposal for using part of Bohn Park to build subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rental homes and some Habitat for Humanity affordable for-sale homes (a combined total of 50-70 homes) was rejected in a town vote, 614 to 498. But Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley did not give up on the Town of Lyons, continuing the discussion about possible available land and eventually purchasing the land at Second and Park from Craig Ferguson and his Planet Bluegrass partners in the fall of 2016–enough land for three duplex buildings, a total of six homes.
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that acts as a builder and a lender of no-interest loans for homeowners. Mortgages for the Lyons homes are about $150,000 (depending on some custom options). Monthly mortgage payments including taxes and insurance range from about $650 to $850 for the homeowners in Lyons, depending on income and household size.
Starting in January 2018, volunteers–from Lyons and communities across the region–worked seven days a week on constructing three duplex buildings at 112, 114, and 116 Park Street.
Applicants to purchase all six of the Lyons homes were selected by April 2018, and several friends and family members helped donate volunteer hours over the past year to count toward each household’s “sweat equity.” All Habitat for Humanity homeowners complete about 250 volunteer hours per adult in each household, which includes attending financial and home-ownership classes, as well as working on construction of their own and their neighbors’ homes, or working at the Habitat ReStore.
The preference policy gave first preference to applicants who maintained their primary residence in the Lyons area (80540 zip code) at the time of the flood and were displaced. For income level requirements in Lyons, preference was for applicants at 60% of area median income or below. The permanently affordable restriction means that homeowners who sell their homes in the future must sell to qualified buyers who are in that same income range.
The first duplex at 112 Park Street was completed in April 2019, and the second duplex at 116 Park Street was completed by August 2019.