Lyons was hard-hit by the floods in September 2013: 211 residential properties were damaged or destroyed, accounting for about 20 percent of the Town’s housing stock. There are still nearly 100 households displaced from Lyons living in temporary arrangements, far from the jobs, schools and community that were the basis for their lives. While businesses and schools have reopened, utility services have been restored, and 80% of the community has returned, the most affected households continue to suffer through a drawn out recovery process.
Some homeowners are rebuilding, some homeowners intend to sell their properties in the federally funded buyout programs and they are waiting out this process. Others, like the 39 households that lost mobile homes, are scattered and finding it difficult to express their needs and help engage in developing a vision and projects that address their particular needs.
A year after the flood, many residents with flood-damaged homes still do not have a clear path to getting back home. For those displaced from mobile homes, it is not clear how they might return to Lyons. They lack information on housing options that could fit their economic realities. While there has been some discussion about potential private properties to rebuild a mobile home park out of the flood plain, the residents are dispersed and do not have the technical capacity to devise and champion a project of this nature.
Lessons learned from other disasters, like Sandy and Katrina, suggest that the longer people are displaced, the worse the negative impacts on their lives. Fatigue, disappointment, and confusion combine with longer-term financial drains and strains, for example, having to pay a mortgage or rent, or the added commuting costs to get back to town for work, to make recovery seem like a dream. In communities in Louisiana facing similar capacity issues in helping their residents through recovery, private funding supported teams of engineers and planners to work directly with neighborhoods of affected homes to share information, provide technical guidance, and help expedite the rebuilding process.
1. Project Manager to support residents in fast-tracking the rebuilding phase
To get back home residents are dealing with these hurdles on an individual basis and sharing information and anecdotes about what they learn with other residents on an ad hoc basis. This is a slow, unorganized and cumbersome communication method. The information communicated also is not always correct for every situation, or is sometimes misinterpreted, or not everyone who needs it gets it, and residents get confusing or conflicting ideas about what to do.
While Town staff is as helpful as possible, their time and resources are limited. The huge workload to review each individual repair or rebuilding project creates stress and makes scheduling uncertain. Town staff must act in a regulatory capacity, so their ability to also advise and help residents decide on how to best resolve issues is necessarily limited.
To address this, we will engage a knowledgeable construction project manager (PM) to work with residents and interface with the Town and the permitting staff on behalf of residents and their architects and engineers. Some of the duties of the PM would be:
The Lyons Volunteers (LOV), a local community group formed after the flood, will supervise the PM and humanitarian support to affected homes in the greater Lyons area. The PM will provide progress updates to the Town Board and Town staff to make sure the efforts are visible in relation to the Town’s priority and to allow for continuous improvement.
2. Former Mobile Home Resident Advocate
This is the lowest-income and most highly affected population in Lyons, as is the case in most floods. This experienced community organizer will work to develop community engagement from this dispersed population to better understand their current unique and individual situations, and assist them in articulating their needs to Town Boards, Committees, and organizations.
3. Manufactured Housing Analyst
The Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF) has been working together with members of the volunteer Housing Recovery Task Force (HRTF) and other members of the Lyons community to address the specific concerns of our largely still displaced former mobile home residents. We are seeking to hire an independent contractor to work as a Manufactured Home Analyst on their behalf, helping all parties to envision a future with or without a manufactured home community in Lyons.
This person will liaise with the Lyons Housing Task Force to develop replacement housing options specifically tailored to this group. In addition, s/he will work with mobile/modular home housing developers, housing non-profits, local property owners, Town staff and the Board of Trustees to generate project concepts that would permit these residents to return to Lyons.
The Manufactured Home Analyst will be under a part-time contract with LEAF and will report their process and results directly to an Advisory Committee.
The Lyons Emergency Family Assistance Fund (LEAF), a registered 501c3, will manage the project. LEAF has long worked to provide immediate relief to Lyons area families, and currently operates the local food bank, an emergency family assistance fund and, in conjunction with the OUR Center, has recently launched a local case management system. The Lyons Community Foundation and Community Foundation Serving Boulder County support the efforts of LEAF.