Housing in Wyoming, obstacles and solutions- Part 1

Published: Aug. 5, 2023 at 5:10 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - As the state incentivizes business growth in Wyoming, the need for housing grows with it.

Yet the housing bottleneck has left many wondering what we are doing wrong.

Recently a project in Teton County, one of the most expensive counties in the state, has developed workforce housing.

The 12-unit project is just a drop in the bucket, but it caused some to wonder how did they figure it out?

So we’ve talked to some housing officials about what they are doing to fix our housing problem.

Arne Jorgensen, the Vice Mayor of Jackson, says they have been addressing the housing issue since 1989.

The biggest problem his town faces is providing workforce housing.

”This is much broader than workforce, its much broader than employees. We are at the risk of losing a sense of community, becoming a resort only, in our community. Other places in the state have a differnt set of challenges around that. But at the end of the day it all comes down to housing members of our community, within the community,” said Jorgensen.

Since 1989 county, town, and non-profit affordable housing developers have created 1500 housing units were created and restricted this housing to resident members of the community.

” If you’re working within our local economy for your living. Whether it’s a school teacher, an architect working for the town deriving your income from our local economy of Jackson, working as a graphic designer working as a guide on the river, if you’re deriving your income from our local economy, you will always be outbid when it comes to housing and land from people that are interested in coming into our community that’s bringing wealth earned outside of our community,” said Jorgensen.

Jackon also incentivizes building by increasing zoning density for community members and increases business incentives by adding additional square footage. Changed regulatory zoning and used taxes to buy land and lease it to investors to build, bringing down the price points.

Gov. Mark Gordon says most people who come to Wyoming want to buy a plot of land, sometimes sight unseen.

Which works if you’re rich, but because of it, low-income or workforce housing has not been the focus.

One of the solutions, Gordon says, maybe in converting existing structures.

” The WCDA has continued work to figure out how to take housing developments that are already there and repurpose those for more low-income housing. We’ve tried to make sure that the housing is safe and affordable, but we need to really start to look at development across the board,” said Gordon.

But critics say that development cost doesn’t make dollars or sense.

“You have this wonderful old building. Well, it doesn’t meet ADA accessibility, it doesn’t meet fire code, it doesn’t meet electrical code, and so you have all these updates that you have to do to the building and by the time you do all those updates to the building, it does pencil out for these people to do it,” said Seth Lloyd, Senior Planner, City of Cheyenne Planning and Development.

This is a three-part series.

In the next part, we’ll look at obstacles to housing in Cheyenne and some of its historical significance.

Part 2

Part 3