A shortage of housing in Laramie has led to a lack of affordable options, according to city staff.
Most of the Laramie City Council’s work session Tuesday was made up of two presentations on housing. The first was from John Batey, director of affordable housing development from the Wyoming Community Development Authority, a housing finance agency. The WCDA could provide financing options to developers building projects catered to lower-income households.
The second was from Charles Bloom, city of Laramie principal planner. His presentation was on the 15-year housing plan, which started in 2015. So far, Bloom said they found Laramie’s population has increased by about 2,000 from 2010-2017, while new housing development has not kept up with the growing population.
Councilor Bryan Shuster said he was worried about the rising prices of housing in Laramie.
“Everybody in this town makes a different amount of money,” Shuster said. “Some people can dive into the housing market a lot easier than other people. First-time house buyers, I am not sure how they do it.”
That is a large concern for local businesses bringing in young professionals, according to conversations Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan had with a couple CEOs. These newcomers would like to buy a home when they get married and have children in Laramie, but it’s been difficult for them to find houses within their price range. Councilman Dave Paulekas said a major step the city could make towards increasing affordable housing would be to move apartments out of certain residential areas under zoning laws. He said investors buying houses and renting them out by the room drives housing prices up.
“It takes away the affordability of that house for people that need starter homes,” Paulekas said.
However, he said he recognized it would be a controversial change that would not receive a lot of support. Paulekas said it would take courage for a council to do that.
At the end of the work session, Jordan gave an update to the council on the progress of applications for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grants.
The city staff planned to apply for these grants for projects that include repaving Ivinson Avenue and paving gravel roads in West Laramie.
At the previous council meeting, city staff members said they were going to be turning in an incomplete application because they would not be able to complete required cost-benefit analysis and environmental impact studies.
Jordan said they have switched gears, so they are applying for money to complete planning projects. The city then would be able to complete the studies so it could apply for construction money through BUILD grants the following year. That way, she said, there would be a better chance of not being immediately rejected from consideration. However, Jordan said she wanted to be clear these are not guaranteed sources of money.