Business leaders, politicians talk housing at business forum – Wyoming Tribune

A crowd listens to a talk on housing during the Governor’s Business Forum at the University of Wyoming’s Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center on Nov. 16, 2022. Nearly 600 people registered for the multi-day event.
Attendees mingle during the Governor’s Business Forum at the University of Wyoming’s Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center on Nov. 16, 2022. Nearly 600 people registered for the multi-day event.
A crowd listens to a talk on housing during the Governor’s Business Forum at the University of Wyoming’s Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center on Nov. 16, 2022. Nearly 600 people registered for the multi-day event.

A crowd listens to a talk on housing during the Governor’s Business Forum at the University of Wyoming’s Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center on Nov. 16, 2022. Nearly 600 people registered for the multi-day event.
A crowd listens to a talk on housing during the Governor’s Business Forum at the University of Wyoming’s Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center on Nov. 16, 2022. Nearly 600 people registered for the multi-day event.
Lawmakers, business owners and others gathered this week at the University of Wyoming’s Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center to learn about a range of topics during the Governor’s Business Forum.
The three-day event attracted nearly 600 attendees to participate in panel discussions, presentations and networking events. Most attendees were from Wyoming, but some came from as far as Florida to attend.
Topics at the forum included the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workplace, energy and special symposium on mental health.
On Wednesday, a panel of speakers discussed the state’s affordable housing crisis and possible methods of increasing housing availability.
Lack of affordable housing has been an issue in Laramie, and also across the state and nation.
In Wyoming, there is a shortage of about 8,400 homes, event moderator Betsey Hale said. A recent study showed that in Cheyenne 5,000 more housing units are needed, while in Teton County there have been significant increases in rent prices.
Hale asked four panelists who specialize in real estate, construction and legislation for their opinions on how best to tackle the issue.
The panelists brought up multiple barriers to the expansion of affordable housing, such as lengthy regulatory processes and financial risk for developers.
Laramie County Commissioner Gunnar Malm said governments could work to make the construction process easier for developers by providing flexibility in certain code and zoning rules, and look for ways to speed up the permitting process.
“One of my biggest frustrations … is knowing how the most expensive part of any transaction in any real estate deal is time,” he said.
Attendees mingle during the Governor’s Business Forum at the University of Wyoming’s Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center on Nov. 16, 2022. Nearly 600 people registered for the multi-day event.
Powder River Construction Project Superintendent and former Campbell County commissioner Micky Shober said that time is essential to the construction industry, and that any way cities could work with companies to expedite projects would be helpful.
He explained that oftentimes affordable housing projects are risky for contractors to take on because of the lower profit margins compared that of larger, more expensive projects.
The chance of neighbors lobbying against affordable housing developments and derailing the project is also a risk, he said.
The panelists discussed a variety of ways local governments can work with developers to minimize this risk and encourage work on affordable projects.
Governments could help provide developers with the land and horizontal infrastructure needed to get started on a project, Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, said.
Melissa Noah of the Wyoming Housing Network said that her organization works to remodel older housing to increase safety and livability in older structures.
The group also provides education programs to help people find reliable housing and one day even purchase a home and begin accruing intergenerational wealth.
She explained that even one emergency could push low-income workers into a state of financial crisis.
The issue of affordable housing development should take every stage of housing into consideration, from homelessness to wealth building, she said.
“If you want employees who come in and work hard, they can’t be worried about their mortgage payment,” Noah said. “They can’t be worried about choosing between … medication and rent.”
The panelists highlighted community engagement and partnership as being essential to solving the problem moving forward.
It is important that political and business leaders in the community show up to advocate for affordable housing and explain its importance, Malm said.
Many people who live in affordable housing perform important duties in the community, such as firefighters and teachers, he said. He added that while the Cheyenne needs more housing, there is also a strain that comes to local governments as the demand for basic services increases.
Kinskey said there is a variety of state funding available to help local governments, but that it can take some expertise to know how to find them.
Solutions to the problem will need to involve dedicated representatives who aren’t afraid to take a risk, he said.
“The typical mayor, the typical commissioner, is not going to get you where you want to go,” Kinskey said.
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