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Pinedale explores affordable housing in anticipation of town growth

Cars driving down Main Street in Pinedale, Wyoming in summertime.
Tara Bolgiano
As the town of Pinedale grows, officials explore how to keep housing affordable. One option Mayor Matt Murdock is proposing is a "home ownership trust."

In Pinedale, affordable housing is becoming a rarity, and town officials are exploring what they can do to curb skyrocketing real estate prices.

Over $30 million was spent collectively on real estate in the Pinedale area in 2021. According to town data, that’s more than double from 2020.

The 2022 population estimate for Sublette County is 9,930 with an annual growth rate of 33 percent. And consequently, home prices in the area are high right now. The median cost of a home in Sublette County is about 25 percent more than the state as a whole, according to the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division report.

“I think there's been changes that have gone on through COVID, or people just wanting to get out of cities,” Pinedale Mayor Matt Murdock said. “For a period of time, we were seeing a lot of, if you will, affordable homes being purchased with cash offers – higher than what was being asked, buying up a lot of houses within the community for the purpose of turning them into short term rentals.”

Last summer, the town council passed restrictions to short term rentals, either limiting them to commercially zoned properties or requiring homeowners to reside at the location in residential neighborhoods.

Town of Pinedale economic data for 2020.
Town of Pinedale
Over 30 million was spent collectively on real estate in the Pinedale area in 2021 – more than double from 2020.

Mayor Murdock said addressing short term rentals was a start, but more needs to be done, as the town has been “discovered.” He said it is going to continue to grow and affordable housing needs to be addressed.

“If we just put our heads in the sand and try to just ignore it or lock the door – the reality is, you can't,” he said. “You can't control who's going to buy what piece of property, which is why we need to be forward thinking.”

Murdock has looked at affordable housing models from Jackson and mountain towns in Colorado. One of his main ideas is ‘homeownership by trust,’ which is a public-private partnership that would develop land into housing units. People could buy the structures – but they would not own the land.

“So the person can still have building-up equity and have some money that they could go into their second home with, but it wouldn't be skyrocketing, based on what we're seeing just in, in land values,” he said.

The plan is in the early stages. If it went through 56 townhouses and apartments would be developed on 5-acres in Pinedale. Murdock said he is creating a ‘working group’ within interested citizens to flesh out the details.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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