Volume 5, Number 52 - March 23, 2006
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Housing conference sheds light
On Thursday, March 16, some 70 people attended a Sublette County Housing Conference to discuss housing issues in Pinedale and the surrounding area. Organized by Pinedale Mayorís Assistant Laurie Latta and Carmel Kail, the conference had presenters from a wide variety of interests. Attendees included Sublette County Commissioners Betty Fear and John Linn, State Representative Monte Olsen and Pinedale Mayor Rose Skinner, along with several members of county and town planning and zoning board members.
Connie Baker Wolfe of the Rural Community Assistance Corporation outlined the nature of that program and the type of assistance they could offer in the areas of technical information in housing, financing and utilities
Chris Stearns, the Wyoming representative of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, explained that departmentís role in enforcing regulations and fair housing laws. Stearns noted that affordable housing is defined as costing no more than 30 percent of a familyís income, leaving a wide gap in what is available in Sublette County. Stearns advised that subsidies to either the homebuyer or the developer are necessary to close that gap.
Randy Dancliff, Fannie Mae state director, reviewed their role in housing development and explained programs available to assist in developing affordable housing. Funds can be advanced through the Community Express Program to assist in project development. Dancliff reviewed a recent project in Wamsutter which put 24 units on a six-acre tract through a non-profit developer.
Cheryl Gillum with Wyoming Community Development Authority reviewed that programís plans to assist first-time buyers as well as rehabilitation assistance. Down payment loans and low rates help low-income buyers in a program that limits purchase price to $130,000. Attempts are being made to increase that limit to be more realistic in markets like Sublette County.
Kevin Keller of IGC Management presented a unique program showing how development of affordable housing can occur without subsidies. His company has successfully completed such projects in Cheyenne, Gillette and Rock Springs and has accomplished it with no private or government subsidies. In Rock Springs, twin homes are built on a 3,500-square-foot lot and are priced at under $135,000. These homes are 1,474 square feet with three bedrooms, two baths and a double garage. One-hundred-thirty-eight of these were built on a 25-acre parcel.
Keller noted that a similar development could occur in Pinedale but would require a cooperative effort involving the Town of Pinedale, Sublette County and property owners or developers. Getting past the resistance to this type of development in the community and accommodating zoning rules and regulations would require a joint effort from all involved in the process. Annexation issues would need to be resolved or a joint town/county plan would be needed to address utility issues and the cost of that expansion.
After hearing the speakers and participating in discussion groups, participants agreed that forming a non-profit housing trust should be the first step. Researching options and educating those involved will be necessary in order to move forward. Keller offered to meet with a local group to outline the things that must be done in order to make affordable housing a reality in Sublette County.
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