Talking solutions for Craig’s housing supply problem

The corner of Russell Street and Eighth Street is the site of a potential new housing development after the old Memorial Hospital was torn down last year. Housing supply in Craig is an issue receiving some significant attention by the city.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

This past Friday, members of the city’s housing steering committee met with consultants to discuss findings from the commissioned housing assessment to potentially move forward with an action plan.

Shannon Scott, head of the economic development department, said that the group discussed various solutions to the city’s issues with low housing supply. One of those includes private-public partnerships in order to encourage development in Craig. Scott said this means that the city would help private developers with many of the risks and obstacles that come with developing residential property.

“The cost of construction right now is so high, and market risks are so high, too,” Scott said. “(Public/private partnerships) was a recommendation we would like to implement. There’s also a lot of city-owned property that could be available.”

Those factors have led developers to have built just eight “stick-built” homes — constructed from the foundation up — inside Craig city limits since 2017, according to numbers from last fall provided by the city.

Last November, consultants presented preliminary findings on the assessment to city council during a workshop, detailing the city’s housing market situation. In their report, the city still needed about 75 new housing units to be able to reach what was considered a balanced market. The biggest gaps are in one- and two-bedroom units, rental housing under $735 per month (the designated rate for housing relative to the area median income), new construction and small homes for first-time buyers and retirees. Currently, about 42% of renters and 30% of homeowners are spending more than a third of their income on housing.

Scott also said that another option to move forward with would be to work on the city’s zoning. She said alleviating some issues related to zoning and improving infrastructure could result in more development.

Another focus of the committee will be first-time homebuyers and senior citizens looking to downsize to smaller homes.

“From a potential employer perspective, if they have housing issues for staff, maybe there’s something we can offer on their behalf,” Scott said. “A lot of the issues we see are specifically teachers and nurses. (The hospital and school district) get people to agree to come here and hire them, and then (candidates) can’t come here because they can’t find a place to live. We’re hoping to help fill that shortage, as well.”

In Craig, 80% of surveyed employers said that affordable housing is either a moderate problem, one of the most serious problems or the most critical problem in the city. This could become a recruitment and retention problem in the future for Craig’s workforce, the assessment found.

Based on previous statements made by the hospital and the school district, it already is a problem. The assessment, however, raised additional concern for recruitment toward any new industry that might come in to fill the void left by the departure of the coal industry in the coming years, as well.

In the future, the steering committee will have at least two more listening sessions before making any final plans for action. Those meetings will include the committee, key city staff members and other community members like employers.

The final version of the action plan will be presented by consultants in March, Scott said.

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