Casper Facing Shortage In Homes

May 16, 2014

Credit Jordan Giese

As the Oil City Casper has seen its fate is closely tied with the energy industry and the recent boom in production is seeing Casper's population expand at an astounding rate. One thing not expanding fast enough however is affordable housing. Wyoming Public Radio's Jordan Giese reports.

JORDAN GIESE: Despite new commercial development one thing in Casper you'll struggle to find are for-sale and rent signs. With all the new energy work, people have poured into Casper, sometimes leaving little for the residents already there.

TADD STEFFENSMEIER: I was thinking like a one to two bedroom should be roughly eight to 900 dollars depending on how nice the place is.

GIESE: That's Tadd Steffensmeier, a local resident of Casper who doesn't work in the energy industry and has been trying to find a place to live with his girlfriend and their cat for several months. Steffensmeier says that rental prices are far higher than expected.

STEFFENSMEIER: 12 to 1400 on average for a two to three bedroom house.

GIESE: Prices have gone up because there's less housing and it's being snapped up by energy workers. Casper's Housing Authority has long been working to address the issue. Executive Director Kim Summerall-Wright says its much worse in Casper than she saw in Cheyenne helping the state.

KIM SUMMERALL-WRIGHT: The Casper housing Authority own 75 public housing units, the Cheyenne Housing Authority owns 341, that puts us at a distinct disadvantage.

GIESE: The housing shortage has driven up home prices and it makes it difficult for residents to find homes. According to the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information between 2000 and 2010 median house prices went up 110 percent and Wright says it continues to grow.

WRIGHT: Especially on the low end, housing is getting more expensive. I'm not sure when we decided as a state that 175,000 dollars is an affordable home. One of the challenges we have is we have people on rental assistance that are professionals that are working in their field. They have Bachelor's degrees. They're actually working in their field but they cannot afford to buy a home in Casper.

GIESE: Young professionals aren't the only people affected. The Casper Housing Authority's Kim Perez says veterans have also been hit hard.

KIM PEREZ: I believe a lot of it is because we have so many young people coming home from the war. Having worked with so many, one of the major things, their complaints or their frustration is that they really have no-nobody that understands what is going on with them right now; they want them to go into treatment. 

GIESE: Perez says some Casperites are beginning to tackle the issue. Steve Grimshaw and his wife have worked on the Wyoming National Apartments in Casper which provides affordable housing to underprivileged citizens.

PEREZ: I mean I'm thankful for them, I'm very thankful for them because they have a criteria because they have to because these are brand new properties. But Steve and I have had the opportunity to talk a few times and he believes the same as I do. Let's put them in new places. Let's make it shiny, give them some pride in ownership. Hey this is my place.

GIESE: The Casper City Council has also been working to develop affordable housing while creating economic incentives for the city.

WRIGHT: Our very first project is the Star Apartments. They have given us 480,000 dollars to pay for the abatement and to help with that project. It is going to be between 8 and 9 million dollars… that money will be coming in from outside the community and into the city of Casper. It's a wonderful project, something that would not have happened without the city council.  

GIESE: Still the city has not kept pace with demands. According to the Department of Administration and Information Casper's rent has jumped more than 12 percent in the last year. For residents like Tadd Steffensmeier that's still a problem.

STEFFENSMEIER: We're actually looking to move in with other people so that we have other people looking around too. We would have to live with someone else at this point to be able to afford to live on our own I guess; we would have to have a roommate or two.

GIESE: City Officials recognize that there is no quick fix and it's going to take a while to mend the issue.