Kai Heatherington

307 Electric apprentice Kai Heatherington (at right) runs electrical lines in a newly-constructed house along Big Horn Drive as journeyman electrician Chris Asay looks on July 29. This year’s Douglas housing study supports the construction of 690 new housing units by 2025.

Housing shortages in Douglas have been accepted as conventional wisdom for years, but a new study says those rumors are real. Douglas could need as many as 690 additional houses and apartments by 2025. Another item in the study says the community could use many of them – perhaps more than 35 single family houses and an unspecified number of rentals – now.

The housing study by Community Partners Research Inc. projects that Douglas could support up to 690 new housing units, which includes 210 to 240 houses and 360 to 390 rentals, while predicting a surge in population needing that housing will be coming now until 2021.

While that portion of the study dealt with Douglas specifically, another part states that county wide, another 420-455 rentals and 260-295 houses could be needed outside of the city and Glenrock. It also suggests Glenrock alone could need up to 60-65 rentals and 35-40 single-family homes.

Added together, the study indicates the total number of new homes needed could be as high as 870 throughout the county, while the number of rental units could be up to 910.

The study reports that the City of Douglas has plenty of room for new housing, as it’s not landlocked and there are few construction concerns, according to CPR representative Scott Knudson, who presented the study to Douglas City Council last week.

“There is a lot of rental pressure right now,” he said, thus driving up the demand and the high number of what will be needed.

Average rental costs are reported at around $750 to $950 for a typical two-bedroom unit. Knudson said that, with these rates, “landlords (in Douglas) seem to be sensitive” to the rate inflation caused by high demand. In similar-sized communities in North Dakota, for example, he has seen rents soar much higher and much faster during an energy boom as the one the county is facing now.

Knudson described Douglas’s energy-rooted economic situation as a unique one that has quickly spurred city growth. He added that this rapid expansion could create a displacement among long-time city residents as more non-local workers hunt for housing in the city’s competitive market.

According to the researchers, the median price for an existing, single family house in recent years is between $185,000 and $200,000, although they admit that house sales are difficult to track because of restrictions on sales records.

The housing study was conducted with a slew of data, with the examination of factors like the rental market, economic growth, available land and population and workforce demographics. The purpose of the research is largely to provide a starting point that local government, contractors and local owners and renters can use to steer their personal and business ventures.

CPR researchers cautioned that the energy boom is temporary and resource exploration in the area is limited, which will impact the demand for permanent housing longterm.

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