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Lander Launches Affordable Housing Study

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The city of Lander's Zoning and Planning Board has launched a study aimed at identifying barriers to affordable housing development. At a pair of community forums on Tuesday, residents were given the opportunity to weigh in.

Posters lining the walls of a conference room in the Lander Community Center asked attendees to rank the style of housing they'd most like to live in: single family homes versus apartment buildings, duplexes, tiny houses and accessory dwelling units.

The forums drew more homeowners and landlords than renters, but City Clerk Sarah Edlund said they brought valuable insight about the kind of housing that renters are looking for.

"Duplexes, triplexes, smaller lots, cottage communities that we don't have in our community and right now - our zoning doesn't really allow for those. So we're trying to open up some of those options," Edlund said.

Lander resident Mary Podzemny owns the home she lives in plus a rental property in town and has plans to build another unit on that same property. But she said zoning regulations can make it cumbersome and expensive to build the kind of housing that many renters are looking for.

"From a landlord perspective, the way the laws are written, it is not favorable to putting in smaller units, which is where the demand is," Podzemny said.

Lander's proximity to the Wind River Mountains, plus the fact that the National Outdoor Leadership School is headquartered there, means that the city attracts lots of seasonal workers looking for low-cost, temporary housing.

Podzemny said that while the city searches for solutions, she hopes they balance the needs of those seasonal workers with people who would like to live in Lander year-round but are in danger of being priced out of the community.

"There needs to be something different for the summer people than for the people who live here permanently. And there needs to be a solution that doesn't overlap those two. Because when you overlap, you're taking away from one or the other," Podzemny said.

Lander residents are encouraged to take an online survey about housing issues. The City Zoning and Planning board will use the results to draft recommendations on how to eliminate barriers to affordable housing and present those results to the Lander City Council during its January 28th meeting.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Savannah Maher, at smaher4@uwyo.edu.

Savannah comes to Wyoming Public Media from NPR’s midday show Here & Now, where her work explored everything from Native peoples’ fraught relationship with American elections to the erosion of press freedoms for tribal media outlets. A proud citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, she’s excited to get to know the people of the Wind River reservation and dig into the stories that matter to them.
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