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Wyoming needs tens of thousands of new housing units by 2030, state report finds

A white and red "sold" sign sits on a green lawn in front of a single-family home.
American Advisors Group / Flickr Creative Commons

Changing employment habits and an aging population are creating an acute housing need in the Cowboy State. Wyoming needs to build between 20,700 and 38,600 new rental and ownership units this decade, according to a lengthy report released earlier this month by the Wyoming Community Development Authority.

The assessment found that new construction – particularly of housing for low-income residents – has not kept up with recent changes in employment patterns. Higher-income industries, such as natural resources and mining, are shrinking. Meanwhile, lower-income sectors like leisure, hospitality, education and health services are growing.

These trends – coupled with lags in construction and higher interest rates – mean rental rates and average home prices are outpacing wage growth. Speaking at a recent federal committee hearing, Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis said she’s concerned about a future crunch pricing out local residents.

“Without housing, nothing in your community works,” she said. “Not your neighborhoods. Not your workforce. Not your business and not your economic growth.”

Although housing challenges exist in every community in the state, specific issues depend on the location. The need for low-income units, for instance, is most obvious in Laramie, Albany and Natrona counties. In Teton, Niobrara, Crook and Lincoln counties, many higher-income households are occupying units that would typically be affordable for lower-earning households, which further shrinks supply. Meanwhile, wages shrank between 2010 and 2021 for renters in Johnson, Campbell, Weston and Carbon counties as rent prices rose.

Courtesy of the Wyoming Community Development Authority.

Lummis said speeding up the process of new construction is necessary, and much of this progress will need to be made at the local and state level. Federally, she hopes to reduce government spending, remove bureaucratic red tape and streamline home loan and repair systems.

“We need to expand the housing supply by eliminating barriers to construction and preserve the housing units we do have,” Lummis said. “Regulation blocks the construction of new housing by making it more expensive than it needs to be.”

State and local officials will explore more localized solutions in the coming months. The entire housing needs assessment, including sections for specific regions of the state, is available here.

Will Walkey is a contributing journalist and former reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.

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