Figures from the Wyoming Community Development Authority suggested that Sheridan County’s aging population and inventory is making it difficult for younger people to gain a foothold in the area’s housing market.
To young families or young people in general, this is not surprising news.
According to the local Multiple Listing Service, about 35 homes are on the market for under $150,000.
Approximately 100 homes are listed for under $200,000.
Compare this to recent census data and the problem comes into focus.
Census data from 2010 shows the following:
• the median value of owner-occupied housing units between 2007 and 2011 was $224,900.
• the median household income for that same time period was $51,667.
Meanwhile, online mortgage calculators indicate that payments for a home listed for $224,900 with a 4 percent interest rate would be approximately $1,300 dollars per month. That doesn’t include homeowners insurance or property taxes.
For a family bringing in about $4,300 per month, that is about 30 percent of their income. For many young families also paying for child care, insurance, student loans and car loans, a $1,300 per month payment seems nearly impossible.
Also, many financial advisers recommend spending no more than 25 to 30 percent of your income on housing, putting many Sheridan families on the top end of that spectrum.
The WCDA report also shows that households in which housing costs exceeded 50 percent of gross income — a metric referred to by the WCDA as severe cost burden — registered at 11.6 percent for the period between 2007 and 2011.
Statewide, that figure was 9.5 percent.
In Sheridan, attempts have been made to reduce that burden by supporting developments offering discounts on lots and homes for those meeting income requirements for affordable housing. Efforts have also been made to create more affordable rental options. Many young families aren’t looking for apartments, though; they want a small home to start a family.
The city used to place emphasis on affordable housing efforts and development through organizations such as the nonprofit Sheridan Housing Action Committee, which closed its doors last spring.
Recently, as the recession took hold of the country, the discussion has shifted to economic development and diversifying our industries.
The WCDA and other groups like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the nonprofit Wyoming Housing Network have also helped potential homeowners or current homeowners find low-interest loans, provide financial counseling and foreclosure solutions. Locally, Habitat for Humanity makes homeownership a reality for low-income families.
If we do succeed in expanding our local economy and the energy sector begins booming again, Sheridan will likely find itself in a tight housing market.
As part of our economic development plan, perhaps emphasis should once again be placed on developing newer, more affordable homes for young families who may not meet financial restrictions for affordable housing developments, but can’t afford to make the investment on their own in the current market.
Those people will likely be the future of this city.