Lincoln Court affordable housing will be in nobody’s back yard

lincoln court development plan 2017

After a couple meetings with the city of Cheyenne planning office, the Lincoln Court mixed use affordable housing project is making some headway. Click on the image to read the latest.

I’m leaving for Nashville in a few hours to participate on a panel at the Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Affordable Housing.

Part of my presentation was about the Lincoln Court mixed use affordable housing project I’m pushing in my hometown of Cheyenne. Based on what I learned at an informational meeting last week about the project, my entire presentation is changed.

We’re getting a little press about the Lincoln Court mixed use affordable housing project. It’s a moving target with lots of things happening in the neighborhood with the likely Hitching Post demolition and the Atlas Motel now up for sale.

Project architect and also my across-the-street neighbor Bryan Bowen and I held a couple informational meetings in Cheyenne last week. The first was attended by stakeholders from the city, realtors and lenders.

The second was attended only by the newspaper reporter Austin and photographer Jacob. That was a little disappointing, but based on the comments we sought on social media, it wasn’t surprising.

Both of them have wondered about the lack of affordable housing in Cheyenne. Having been a newspaper reporter, I know that news gatherers aren’t exactly pulling down the big bucks. Jacob reported that he spends 50 percent of his monthly income on housing in Cheyenne. The generally-accepted housing cost is closer to 30 percent.

hitching post 2017

The city shut off the power and water to the Hitching Post Inn signalling a move to demolish the historic hotel.

Based on the intrepid reporters’ observations around Cheyenne, particularly about the, apparently, very active Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) crowd, they, too are skeptical about whether Lincoln Court would actually happen because of the lack of community support for the idea of affordable housing.

Lincoln Court is the perfect project to satisfy the NIMBYs since it is bounded by Highway 30, Missile Drive and the railroad tracks – who in their right minds would want to live there, and to top it off how about 40 mph winds and 40 below?

This is a huge opportunity to anchor the redevelopment with a collaboration among the city, the Hitching Post Inn and the Atlas Motel to return the West End to the vibrant neighborhood it once was.

While comparing Boulder to Cheyenne is “apples and oranges,” Boulder’s Holiday Neighborhood is a strong corollary to what can happen on Cheyenne’s West End. Holiday is bounded by State Highway 93 (Broadway), US Highway 36 (to Estes Park). The surrounding land uses are industrial (peat moss yard), light industrial (garages, car lots, storage), trailer parks (Ponderosa and Meadows), risky recreation (two shooting ranges and a strip club – now closed).

Holiday ended up with over 333 homes with 40 percent permanently affordable on 27 acres. There are data from an affordable housing purveyer called Artspace that when new residents are introduced to slum and blighted areas, the land uses change and become vibrant.

This is generally identified negatively with the concept of gentrification where affordable housing is replaced with high end housing and kitschy boutiques and Starbucks.

What’s great about a place like the West End of Cheyenne is, there will be no displacement of current residents, but rather new ones will be attracted. No historic buildings will be demolished, but new ones built that keep memories alive through historic place making.

There is a huge housing gap not just in Cheyenne, but many places. On social media we asked for input and comments and heard from mostly skeptics about the meaning of “affordable housing” and whether or not the city government was going to lead or muddle through.

When housing is only reliant on market forces to set prices, developers typically nurture a niche that meets the needs of people who earn a good living, are of lower financial risk and able to purchase larger and more expensive houses.

In the absence of community supporting decent housing for all and no agreed upon definition for “affordable” anyone but those with an ability to buy what the market offers are literally left out in the cold. I think there is a WTE article coming out in the near future about people living in substandard conditions.

I’m not saying the public sector has to set up a bureaucracy to deal with affordable housing. One of the objectives of Lincoln Court is to come up with a way to market-regulate permanent affordability.

I have to say that the project is a bit frustrating since there’s a demonstrated need for lower cost housing in Cheyenne. The Lincoln Court wants to meet the heart-felt need to provide affordable and safe homes where individuals and families can thrive.

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Keep affordable housing from being an elephant in the room

jim snow tree

Silver Sage Village in Boulder, Colorado consists of 10 market rate and six affordable homes.

The “Dealing with Diverse Personalities” retreat is coming up at the end of September – there’s still time time to sign up. The retreat is not for the faint of heart.

Like dealing with issues of housing affordability, it’s not an easy topic to discuss since it requires people to step out of their comfort zones.

Most affordable housing discussions are about density and development scale, parking, traffic, grants, public / private partnerships – the “stuff” of affordability.

Once built, however, affordable housing and the diversity that goes along with it can be sources of personal conflict which happen at the national, local and neighborhood levels. As a refresher, I’ve written about diversity and cultural competency as a prelude to the Arcosanti retreat and folds right into discussions about affordable housing.

There’s been quite a bit of discussion about affordability in cohousing. Here are a few of my observations about it which I originally wrote for the EcoEducation Village Institute.

In my past lives I was a city planner, then developed Habitat for Humanity affordable housing and served a term on the Boulder Planing Board. I currently live in an affordable cohousing home.

Silver Sage Village has 16 homes of which ten are market rate and six were built as part of the city of Boulder’s permanently affordable housing program.

Wild Sage cohousing across the street partnered with Habitat for Humanity as well as the city affordable program. Here are a few of my random thoughts and suggestions:

privilegeDiversity and cultural competency cross cut when it comes to affordable cohousing.

I suggest you have a serious and frank discussion among yourselves about why you personally – as opposed to philosophically – want affordable housing in your neighborhood.

Get strong commitments about all being willing to pay more money out of pocket to level the field for those who cannot otherwise afford to live there.

It’s obvious that partnering with others, rather than tackling affordable housing on your own is necessary. Even if you do find ways to subsidize building costs those don’t lower monthly Home Owner’s Association fees.

coho suburb aerial– I suggest you build the homes so they are all affordable to people / families of similar means. At Silver Sage, over the years, a perceived caste system arose. Dealing with a more socio-economically diverse community is a challenge for people, particularly since stereotyping may be involved.

The Silver Sage Village affordable homes are 800sqft and worth $150000 and limited in annual appreciation. The market rate homes are between 1100 and 2300sqft and valued at $500000 and $800000 and rising.

For the affordable home owners with limited appreciation, it’s a challenge to keep HOA fees equitable. Affordable homes are the same as market rate homes in the sense that the equity is earned differently. Rather than having to tie up large amounts of cash into a home, affordable homes are lesser expensive, in exchange for earning the equity in small annual chunks.

Becoming more culturally competent is a step toward breaking down the notions of privilege or lack, thereof.

– I suggest building all similar sized homes so the homeowner fees are more equally distributed. At Silver Sage fees range from $450+ to $650+/month which includes gas heat and water and build enough homes to spread around the fees. I think the sweet spot is around 32.

the-not-so-big-house– I suggest you design the homes ala “The not so big house” by Sarah Susanka to encourage residents to use the common house.

At Silver Sage the common house is used more by the affordable homeowners because our living spaces are smaller.

The common house here is used a majority of the time by by non-residents who rent it for studio and office space and outside events like meetings and classes. The market rate homes are designed like large homes in the suburbs and plopped into cohousing with large living rooms and big kitchens.

These are a few of my ideas and suggestions when considering whether or not you want to have affordable homes in your neighborhood / community. It’s not as easy decision to make, when you take into account the potential demographics of those who live in affordable housing.

Everyone each have different life experiences, current lifestyles, and it is imperative that all community members recognize these differences and learn how to embrace them in the contexts of their own lives.

If you  intellectually think affordable housing is a good idea, but not sure why it’s so hard for you to accept it emotionally, take a chance and step out of your comfort zones, sign up for the “Dealing for Diverse Personalities” retreat September 30 – October 2nd in Arcosanti, AZ.

The Spirit of Culture: Is diversity highly over rated? 

Click on the banner to read the full conference schedule.

Diversity, inclusiveness, cultural competency: are they just feel good buzz words?

Do they result in big benefits or big hassles in the long run?

I don’t know anyone who is AGAINST the tenets of equality and fair play in the abstract.

I don’t know anyone who considers themselves a “racist” but we’ll also talk about the roots of violence and privilege that play out in the 24 hour news cycle of today and enable bad behavior in smaller communities.

I’m leading a workshop at the “Aging Better Together” conference in Salt Lake City May 20-21 called “The Spirit of Culture” which addresses inclusion and diversity from first person perspectives – your prespectives.

Here’s a link to the slide presentation I’ll be making at the conference.

We’ll work as a group and as individuals while thinking back about our upbringing, the people of influence in our lives and how we can understand ourselves to better relate to others.

A cohousing community is a unique social construct that isn’t inherently in the American cultural DNA.

Another topic we’ll discuss in the context of cohousing is that of affordability – the types and prices of housing and the persons and families who live in them.

Workshoppers will leave some tips and exercises they can share with their communities.

This will be the most important workshop you’ll attend – if you dare.