In the middle of an oil boom, Williston, North Dakota, can't build housing fast enough. In fact, it's growing so fast that last year's Census Bureau estimates that its population doubled from 14,700 in 2010 to 26,700 today.
North Dakota now produces more oil than any state besides Texas. Its small towns along the Williston basin and Bakken formation serving as the face of the growth that has come with it. Williston in particular has become defined by the recent boom; its thousands of newcomers have caused astronomical jumps in rent.
ApartmentGuide.com recently tracked the average cheapest rent in every U.S. town as of last December 31 and found that Williston and the surrounding area have a higher entry level price point than even New York and San Francisco. A quick browse through Craigslist this morning shows one-bedrooms going for $2,700.
Unlike the cities we tend to associate with high rents, Williston's housing prices are hardly driven by luxury dwellings with excessive amenities. Employer-provided dwellings, often referred to as "man camps," give workers a barracks-style arrangement that provide a place to sleep, eat and hang out during work weeks that can be over 80 hours. Those not working in the oil fields are rarely as lucky, pressed instead to find shelter in hotels, new subdivisions or RV parks that quickly fill up.
At worst, some resort to sleeping in cars or tents until something affordable becomes available. While a job in the oil field can pay into the six-figure range, new jobs fueled by the influx of oil workers hardly pay as much, making it even more difficult to afford a decent place to live.
Unlike bigger cities with more balanced economies, the sudden, disproportionately male-driven growth has also led to an overworked police force and all sorts of new quality of life issues related to everything from infrastructure to alcohol. And for a town not used to so many new people, Williston now has the odd paradox of one percent unemployment and a rapidly growing homeless population. According to HUD, the town has "a critical need for available shelter beds." Statewide, homelessness rose 200 percent last year.
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