Affordable housing or “Attainable Housing”... Wyoming’s model will tell

Updated: Dec. 7, 2022 at 6:58 PM CST
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - According to officials, Wyoming has been dealing with the ongoing issue of affordable housing, or rather “attainable housing.”

As inflation, interest and mortgage rates increase, housing has become more of a distant reality for some folks.

Colorado, our neighboring state, is looking to model Wyoming’s affordable housing template to fix its housing shortage.

This was after our affordable housing task force had already convened in the spring.

“One of the suggestions was that the task force re-established as a standing committee that would serve in an advisory capacity to the office,” said Brenda Birkle, Executive Director of My Front Door.

The task force brought together municipal, state, private and public entities to inform best practices in creating affordable housing.

“How do we maximize the very, very incredibly forward thinking and good things that are happening with Urban Renewal, T.I.F.F.s really kind of spurring economic development and how do we make all of that mesh? We don’t operate in silos, right? We operate in concert with one another,” said Birkle.

It evaluated housing needs, looking at existing and missing policies, innovative and best practices, and helping branches communicate to bring together knowledge and strengths.

Out of it, the state created two new legislative draft bills to help not only build more homes but to help folk get into them.

“Affordable housing that fits in that housing continuum that is typically financed in small or in large part by subsidy, it truly means that non-profits and others have to work quite a bit harder to be able to help participants they serve to get that first-time house,” said Birkle.

Some of the task force’s ideas include Land Banking or recycling blighted properties into private or public livable spaces.

State Housing Trust Funds helping to reduce land costs, and Community Land Trust, a shared equity model to help keep housing cheap.

But we need solutions as soon as possible.

“Decade over decade, we’ve continued to produce fewer units, and we’ve seen an increase in population...Right? Any engineer will tell you everything has a tensile strength and somewhere we’re going to break,” said Birkle.

Laramie County’s housing waiting list is up to 1800 families, and Natrona county is 1400 with no end in sight as of yet.

As housing continues to bottleneck with the push for new business growth in Wyoming, the state faces greater supply versus demand issues which could impact Wyoming’s future success and growth.