Laramie is a mid-size university town with a thriving Main Street and quality of life. However, the community is economically burdened by the lack of housing choices and affordability. Not only are the current housing options not meeting needs, but the choices available are largely unaffordable. The cost of housing is high and household incomes are low, leaving employers struggling to attract and retain talent, including university graduates.
In 2018, a team from the City of Laramie attended a Community Builders Leadership Institutein hopes of tackling issues around economic development, planning, and housing. From thatcame Thrive Laramie, an initiative to design the future of the Laramie community. In 2019, the City applied toCommunity Builder’s Technical Assistance program to more specifically focus on housing issues, and the Thrive Laramie: Housing project was launched. The project is ongoing today.
In Fall 2019, we traveled to Laramie to meet with local leaders and other members of the community to hear more about their housing issues.Beginning with walking tours and focus groups, the public outreach for the project engaged a significant amount of the population. Comment boxes, mapping exercises, a community survey, and other activities were also circulated to gather feedback on the impact of housing in Laramie.
In April 2020, we facilitated a virtual design workshop with the City of Laramie. Although the workshop was intended to be in person, the COVID-19 pandemic made this impossible. Through online engagement with local developers and real estate professionals, we worked together to identify opportunities for expanding housing choices at a range of scales, housing types, and locations in the community. We also identified potential code barriers and outlined potential strategies to “prove the market.”