SHERIDAN — A recent report from the Wyoming Business Council identified a severe housing shortage in Sheridan County, but a local home builder questions the data used to draw that conclusion.
The WBC report, which was produced by Community Initiatives Director Kim Porter, drew on data from several statewide agencies to rank Wyoming counties on quality-of-life metrics.
The report ranks Sheridan County 19th in the state for access to affordable housing and fourth in the state for the number of residents spending more than half their income on housing.
Affordable housing in the WBC report is defined as housing where families spend 30 percent or less of their income on mortgage or rent. Based on that metric, the largest need is for houses that cost between $134,400 and $215,071.
In a previous interview with The Press, Brian Craig, the city of Sheridan’s community development director, said he has heard from local realtors that the greatest demand is for houses roughly between $200,000 and $300,000.
Because those numbers are anecdotal, however, the city is currently exploring conducting a comprehensive housing needs assessment in order to pinpoint the extent of the affordable housing shortage.
The report ultimately concluded that Sheridan County needs 3,320 more housing units based on “housing demand data.”
Big Horn Homebuilders Association President Ron Patterson told local legislators at the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Forum Tuesday that he does not believe that is an accurate assessment of the county’s housing need.
“That would be almost 10,000 people,” Patterson said. “I don’t (think) Sheridan’s grown [to that extent]…There’s overall reporting missing in these numbers somewhere.”
Patterson said he asked Dr. Wenlin Liu, who is the chief economist in the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information’s Economic Analysis Division, about the state reports and learned that the data state agencies use in their quarterly reviews are based on reported building permits. However, Patterson said counties are not currently required to submit their housing building-permit data, which makes it difficult to get an accurate picture of the housing situation in Wyoming outside of the cities. Because of that, Patterson asked local lawmakers to support a change to state statute that would task a state office with collecting building permit information from every Wyoming county.
“It’s just to report building action going on, how many people are doing the actual building and the value of the buildings so that we’ve got a good representation across the state of appraised value of improvements,” Patterson said. “The building industry is one of the top-five industries in the state, but there’s no way of acknowledging that outside of the cities.”
Though community stakeholders agree Sheridan County lacks sufficient affordable housing, the precise extent of that lack is yet to be determined.