Study Provides Potential Solutions to Local Housing Shortage | Local News

SHERIDAN – The recently completed Sheridan County Housing Study unveiled at a public meeting on Wednesday provided a better picture of local housing needs and potential solutions.

The study, which specifically focuses on housing needs in the municipalities of Sheridan, Dayton and Ranchester, takes into account community demographics and current housing inventory to determine the county’s housing needs and also provides potential solutions to meet these needs, according to Sheridan’s director of community development. Wade Sanner.

Aaron Gruen and Debra Jeans of San Francisco-based land use firm Gruen Gruen and Associates conducted the study by examining secondary data, such as housing and demographic data, as well as conducting in-person interviews and on-site visits. The study was jointly funded by the county, the city of Sheridan and the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority.

The study shows there will be an increased need for housing in Sheridan County in the near future, Jeans said. Over the next 10 years, the county is expected to need an additional 990 units, including 725 single-family units and 265 multi-family units. This projection takes into account the housing needs of the workforce and seniors, Jeans said.

Based on 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Jeans compared the available housing stock to the number of people who could afford those units.

For rental properties, rent for 3,085 units in Sheridan County ranges from $375 to $1,250 per month. However, only 1,721 households in the county are in that price point, Jeans said. Sheridan County needs additional rentals below the $375 per month price, and more full-scale rental options that may appeal to those above the $1,250 per month price.

When it comes to home ownership, the existing number of homes below $75,000 exceeded forecasted demand, as did the number of homes between $170,000 and $365,000. The county needs to increase its supply of homes in the $75,000 to $170,000 price range and those above the $365,000 price range, Jeans said.

The best way to meet those housing needs is to build additional homes at market price, Gruen said. Market-priced housing meets the demand of high-income households, freeing up more affordable housing options for low-income people, including workers and seniors. .

“Housing is not immune to this basic law of supply and demand,” Gruen said. “…The bottom line is that if you want more affordable housing, build more housing at market price, and that will naturally work to produce affordable housing.”

The 60-page report includes 13 other recommendations ranging from supporting employer-assisted housing programs to anticipating the need for more and a wider variety of housing services for seniors.

Asked by Sheridan County Commissioner Christi Haswell what goals the county should prioritize, Gruen offered her a “top three” list.

First on the list is to increase the speed of the approval process for construction.

“I’m not suggesting doing things that aren’t safe or aren’t going to create nice neighborhoods or result in lousy products,” Gruen said. “But the early stages are when developers don’t have money coming in, but they have money going out. So anything you can do to reduce uncertainty and increase speed would be appreciated.

Second, Gruen recommended finding areas where zoning could change and housing density could be increased.

“I understand the historical character of the community and the preferences of the community, but… increase densities where you can,” Gruen said.

Sheridan Town Administrator Stuart McRae noted that it could be a tough sell in the community. For example, when the city considered rezoning parts of the city to accommodate secondary suites, the suggestion was met with concerns about how the change would affect property values, infrastructure, parking and the general character of the neighborhoods.

The solution, Gruen said, is to slow things down.

“I would try to start with a project that’s really well done, and maybe I wouldn’t go bananas on increasing density at first,” Gruen said. “But make sure it improves economy from a builder’s perspective and lowers costs from a buyer’s perspective. And most importantly, make sure it’s a really good project that gets people excited. “

Finally, Gruen suggested that governments help developers by providing capital assistance for the creation of public infrastructure for potential housing developments.

“Funding infrastructure is difficult because developers usually have to do it with cash when they don’t have cash coming in,” Gruen said. “Thus, help from governments would be helpful.”

Gruen noted that while the study is complete, his company’s suggestions should serve as a starting point for the community.

“Don’t let this rally be the last,” Gruen said. “I think the interaction breeds trust and an opportunity to work out our differences…I don’t think there’s anything bleak here, just opportunities to improve further.”