Wyoming's outdated housing stock needs replacing, but resources to make that happen are limited. That's left most counties in the state in need of more low-income housing, according to a new Wyoming Business Council report.
The council’s Community Initiatives Director Kim Porter said 43 percent of Teton County’s workforce commutes from outside the county, and 10,000 units are needed to solve the problem. Meanwhile, on the other side of Wyoming, Platte County has the lowest household income in the state, one of the highest costs for housing and no affordable rentals available. And with so many University students in Albany County there is a need for 4,510 rentals.
Porter said the whole state has suffered from a lack of affordable housing for more than 20 years.
“If you have people that are in stable housing that can live in their community they have more opportunities to be involved in the community, they have time to take classes, as opposed to commuting an hour a day. [And] studies show kids do better in school,” she said.
Porter wondered if resources that might have been available for these efforts may now be redirected to rebuilding after natural disasters like hurricanes and fires. But despite hurdles, she said people are trying creative approaches, including in Platte County.
“In Guernsey, a group of six people who saw the need in the community got together and put up their own personal collateral to purchase an apartment building that was run down and turned it over to a contractor. With the proceeds of that sale, they built three more houses, against just building on each profit from the housing.”
Porter said other counties have tried unique strategies, too. In Fremont County, Riverton High School is collaborating with Habitat For Humanity to build low-income housing, and in Albany County they’re teaching courses on how to purchase your own home. The council is developing a plan to share those statewide, rather than leaving counties to tackle the problem on their own.