SHERIDAN — New figures from the Wyoming Community Development Association suggest that Sheridan County’s rapidly aging population is making it difficult for younger people to gain a foothold in the area’s housing market.
While Wyoming’s market remains generally favorable to buyers, affordable housing is harder to come by in Sheridan County than in much of the rest of the state.
Among other factors, higher than average prices for single family homes and a rapidly aging population mean fewer opportunities for young people to get their foot in the proverbial door.
According to the WCDA’s semiannual Profile of Demographics, Economics and Housing, the number of people between the ages of 15 and 24 in Sheridan County decreased by 1.6 percent from 2010 to 2011 while people between 55 to 64 increased by 4.2 percent.
Meanwhile, 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.
Christian Pritchett, federal programs coordinator at WCDA, said those factors often disproportionately affect potential buyers who have yet to reach their lifetime earnings potential because they tend to be muscled out of the market.
“When you have an aging population or higher increases in the elderly population as Sheridan County does, it makes it harder to serve that lower income (demographic) and younger population,” he said.
Additionally, some of the Sheridan homes that might ordinarily be attractive to younger buyers are not eligible for bank loans because of a need for repairs. Owner of Cottonwood Properties, LLC Vickie Mader said banks are often wary of issuing loans for those older, more dilapidated properties.
“It not only protects the lender, but it also protects the homebuyers so they don’t get in a home where they can’t afford to make the necessary repairs,” she said.
As a result, Mader said Sheridan’s stock of older homes — many of which were previously used as rentals — are often attractive to buyers but not lenders.
All that taken into account, young buyers hoping to stay in Sheridan aren’t completely on their own.
Several programs administered by WCDA aim to help young people enter the market by providing low interest rates among other perks. But, the fact remains that other Wyoming communities can sometimes seem more attractive to young people.
Local realtors point to hopeful signs that the area’s economic base will continue expanding and thereby increase options and accessibility for the young.
Since the low point of the recession, for example, Sheridan’s real estate market looks to be on the rebound according to several metrics supplied by the Multiple Listing Service.
Most notably, sales of commercial properties in Sheridan County nearly doubled between 2011 and 2012. Realtor Marie Lowe of ERA Carroll Realty said that growth bodes positively for job creation in the years to come.
Without a particularly booming energy sector to draw young workers to the area, Sheridan officials have emphasized economic development via investment by light manufacturing and technology firms.
Whether the workers they lure to Sheridan can afford to stay is another matter altogether.