Experts talk about obstacles to affordable housing

Authorities claim ‘Nimbyism’ killed an affordable housing projects thanks to residents
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 6:54 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The Cheyenne City Council killed an affordable housing project slated to be in a lot between Ridge and Storey, thanks to residents.

Leaving many to wonder if “Nimbyism” or “Not In My Back Yard” will prevent affordable and workforce housing in the county and the state.

Officials said residents recently inundated a construction company and city council members with phone calls, petitioning them to vote down an affordable housing project proposed for the area.

”Everybody recognizes that its a needed the multi family, and the more dense communities are needed, but then people just don’t want it in their back yard,” said Jason Stephen, Owner of Gateway Construction and Bedrock Development.

The project was slated to start this summer and originally planned 250 units, whittled down to over 190 units due to residents’ concerns.

”Research supports that mixed-use, mixed-income developments and a variety of income levels, a variety of cultures and diversity is an enrichment and it actually... raises the property values,” said Brenda Birkle, Executive Director of My Front Door and Chair for the Affordable Housing Taskforce.

The project needed a city council eight-vote majority but got voted down seven to three.

”If you want a teacher’s assistant. In fact, if you want teachers for your children. If you want a bank teller when you go in to access your money, they require a pillow. They have to have a place to sleep,” said Birkle.

Authorities say it demonstrates the more significant issue Laramie and the state face when building affordable and workforce housing and that fear and lack of information or education stop growth.

Experts say that even when building codes and construction costs are improved or incentivized through private and public collaborations, Nimbyism ultimately stops building.

“That’s pretty frustrating from a developers standpoint. As to when you look at a property and you see that it meets all of those requirements. You also see that the planning department is also backing you and has suggested and recommended approval, and then it actually doesn’t get approved,” said Stephen.

And it’s not the first time.

Authorities say residents near College Drive and Rock Springs Street tried to stop another recent multi-unit project based on land slope.

”The neighbors came out against the variance. Not because they thought the topography on the land was flat but because they thought that maybe if they stopped the variance they could stop the multi-family project,” said Seth Lloyd, Senior Planning City of Cheyenne.

Despite initiatives to increase affordable housing to support growth, experts still face obstacles to making affordable and workforce housing a reality.

Experts say that residents know of the housing needs but don’t provide feasible alternatives.

Leaving them to go back to the drawing board, increasingly shortlisting new potential areas to find communities where residents may be more welcoming

The area will likely get re-zoned into an agricultural area and remain empty for a while.