From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 38 - December 13, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Affordability vs. Density: County Attacks Affordable Housing Issues

by Tiffany Turner

The answer to Sublette County’s (specifically Pinedale’s) affordable housing riddle may not be one locals want to hear. Mike Macey of M-Powerment, LLC, met with government leaders (municipal, county and state), community leaders, business owners, developers and concerned citizens this past Friday to discuss available options for making housing in the county more attainable to more people.

Macey’s visit was part of Southwest Wyoming Workforce Solutions’ regional program. His resounding answer to the crunch is another issue that has Sublette County citizens working hard to avoid. Density appears to be one of the more obvious options to solving the housing shortage that has caused the inflation of rental and homeownership prices, but not many in the area want to see that happen.

Happening concurrently throughout the county are steps to both ease the cost of living and to ensure that Sublette County remains the wide-open, unpopulated community it has been for years. Macey doesn’t see this as an option.

“I don’t think it’s any different than any other rural America I work with,” Macey said. “You don’t want to see change or you think ‘change will smother us...’ You all have the same problems of the property prices going up; one (solution) – you don’t want to hear it – and that’s density.”

“Everything is just too much, too fast,” Paul Hagenstein said.

“It’s just natural (to grow); it’s not something you can stop; it’s just something you have to manage,” Macey said.

The change was not the only issue brought up about the added infrastructure and density to the area.

“I’m concerned about a sense of community – I’m concerned with losing that,” John Walter said.

Macey said it was a matter of creating a new community in which newcomers are able to purchase homes, which, he said, was the only way the community will survive the long haul; Pinedale needs people to have roots in the community so they have a reason to stay when the transient workforce of the oil and gas industry has left the area.

“The guy working at the gas station might become part of the community if given the chance,” Macey said. “They need to put down real roots – and they’ll stay because they have something to lose.”

“You have a real opportunity to think of this as a place to live, not just a transient community,” Macey added.

Macey compared the root system needed to that of a strong tree as opposed to an aspen. Homeownership will create deep roots that, unlike roots of renting (much like an aspen), are uprooted when something big comes along.

“If you keep waiting for something to change, it will not happen,” Macey said.

Employers need to step up to the plate and do guaranteed leases,” Macey added. “You won’t (bring in large companies) because you have a history of boom and bust.”

In accordance with the density, Macey was also in favor of mobile homes outside the city limits to increase the attainability of affordable housing. “Many don’t want to because there is some stigma that is attached to that,” Macey said. “You may not want to live in one, you may even look down on it, but to the family that comes home to (that trailer) everyday, they love it – it’s home.”

While Macey was not holding the workshop tosell products, he did show those in attendance several high-density modular construction units he is currently working on in other parts of the country.

These units are quickly put up and put large amounts of homes in a small area, which he says decreases the prices of the homes because the cost of the land is dispersed.

“I hope there is some information we have talked about that sparks some thought,” Macey said in closing.

While it was a busy day and many attendees had to hurry back to jobs and meetings, Laurie Latta, who helped get Macey to Pinedale to speak, said she felt the program went well.

“I was pleased with the turnout and the interest,” Latta said. “(I) wish we could have had time for discussion because I think folks were prepared to talk. However, I think some good information was passed along to all the participants that targeted their area of interest and/or concern.”

“I was pleased that Sublette County participated in the Southwest Wyoming Workforce Solutions regional program with Sweetwater, Lincoln, Uinta and Teton counties,” Latta added.

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