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With an influx of new residents recently, Sheridan faces a lack of housing options

An empty dirt field covered in snow, with construction materials
Hugh Cook
Wyoming Public Radio

The population of Sheridan has grown over the past two decades, but an ever-increasing number of new residents have put stress on the housing market, with too few properties available for those looking to buy and rent. This is largely due to relocation trends that have occurred during the pandemic.

"People are very intentional about how they want to live now, and they will look for a place to live that gives them the lifestyle that they want, and then find out how to either move their business or work there," said Marie Lowe, an Associate Broker at Century 21 BHJ in Sheridan. "It's not following a job."

Lowe stated that the number of inquiries for real estate skyrocketed during the pandemic. And despite the notion that some people have about new residents not caring about Sheridan or Wyoming, she said that isn't true.

"I would say the majority of the people moving in have a connection with Sheridan or Wyoming," she said. "They either grew up here, their parents move here, their kids moved here."

Lowe also said that the number of new arrivals to the area isn't insignificant and equates to approximately 20 percent of real estate sales. She said the quality of life issues are among the chief reasons for relocating as well as the friendly tax incentives Wyoming offers. She also said that its many outdoor opportunities are also a draw.

They're not coming from anyone specific state or region either, she said.

Zoning Map

"We have a map in our office, and we put pins where people come from, and there are more pins from Colorado, California, Oregon recently, Washington, Texas, New Jersey, New York, all of those states," Lowe said. "But really, all over the country."

Though many of her clients are older or in the later stages of their careers, she's also dealt with many younger people, including young families.

"Sheridan is getting more and more desirable," she said. "You know, we now have reliable airline service so you can commute or if you have to travel for work, we have more restaurants, we have trail systems to draw young people," she said.

Lowe stated other areas of Sheridan County have been popular as well, including Dayton, Ranchester, Big Horn, and Story. She said those moving to those communities usually have to pay more there than in Sheridan.

To better understand the housing situation in the area, including what is needed to meet the demand the city, county, and the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority hired Gruen Gruen Associates. They are a research firm that studies housing and real estate as part of its research analysis profile.

"We found that the community was very housing supply-constrained. So, for example, residential construction has been at much lower levels than before the Great Recession. There just hasn't been as much housing built," said Debra Jeans, a principal with Gruen Gruen Associates.

Their study concluded that approximately 1,000 housing units will need to be constructed in Sheridan County over the next decade, the majority of which will need to be in or near Sheridan.

"Much of the demand going forward, and in the more recent years, is really due to two, two or three groups: employment opportunities, and the aging of households who are either aging within the town or moving in and they're out of their prime working years," said Aaron Gruens a principle with Gruen Gruen Associates. "The households that are moving from other areas because of the desirability of Sheridan as a retirement or destination or haven, they generally have relative affluence, even if they don't have high incomes. So, they can afford higher-priced housing in essentially the kind of semi-custom or custom homes that typically are built in Sheridan."

City officials and the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Association have actively been courting certain types of businesses in an effort to diversify the local economy. Several have done so over the past several years, including those in specialized manufacturing. Gruen said wages at some of these companies are approximately $20 an hour. But he also said these kinds of wages can't keep up with housing and rental prices.

"We had stories of businesses telling us they offer jobs to people who are not in town, younger people, out of school, and by the time the kids got to, you know the young adults, the recent graduates got to town to look for the apartment, the apartment was gone, so they were starting their jobs working from outside the region," Gruen said.

However, this poses some unique problems. Seniors who are looking to downsize have few options for smaller residences, such as condos. And younger people, especially ones with families are being priced out of the market.

"One of the recommendations was to reduce, to change the rules, the regulations, to allow more homes on a given parcel of land so the homes wouldn't have to be as big, and they could be lower-priced," Gruen said. "And what that would do is encourage the folks that are in very large homes there were for their families to free up houses that would then become available to family households."

Wade Sanner is the Community Development Director for the City of Sheridan. He said the housing study was commissioneddue to economic development reasons.

"We have a number of businesses that we've been actively recruiting to diversify our local economy, and what had happened was some of those businesses that we were looking at started giving us a head's up that 'Hey, we can't locate to Sheridan because the cost of housing, the cost to employ some people because of housing is too high,'" he said.

Initial ideas of population growth were overestimated but are significantly higher than they were just a few years ago, Sanner said.

"We just thought it was growing very rapidly, just from what we had read with influx from California and Colorado," Sanner said. "When Gruen and Gruen had done it, then we found out it wasn't as high, but it is a substantial amount."

Future expansion in Sheridan is set to spread out in all directions, though some areas are more accessible and equipped than others.

"We primarily have looked at the north and west of our city boundaries just because that's where land became available, so then we started planning that, but the market has been driving to the south, so that kind of does its own thing," Sanner said. "The east side hasn't had [it] because we have the highway right there. A lot of that, we do have some residential out there, but that's just a purely logistic [thing]."

According to the 2020 Census figures, Sheridan County's population was 30,921, while the City of Sheridan was 18,787.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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