I am one of the fortunate ones who actually arranged housing prior to moving to Williston. Granted, this consists of an 18 foot motor home parked in someone’s side yard, with an electric hook up and access to a bathroom and washer and dryer. But I’ve got it good compared to some people. One man slept in a dumpster as seen here. But all that is about to change for those workers who consider RV/camper living as their homes here. The City of Williston unanimously passed a camper ban ordinance that will become effective in a few months pending resident’s final vote on June 26th.
Housing continues to be a problem in this part of the country. Unlike the rest of America’s housing issues, this is due to rapid growth rather than a real estate bubble or poor economic conditions. According to the Huffington Post, North Dakota has risen from the nation’s 9th largest oil producer to the 2nd in just six years. The population has approximately doubled and there simply is not enough housing for all of the bodies currently earning a living here.
So what implications does the housing ordinance have? It’s hard to say. Some of the business owner’s in town have protested it vigorously. I spoke to the owner of a local BBQ place and he said that their management has been very vocal about the ban because a majority of their workers live in campers or RV’s within city limits. This is just one of many businesses that feel the same way. The town is already amazingly understaffed and there are somewhere in the ballpark of 3,000 unfilled jobs. Of course, the businesses who already have staff are going to do everything necessary to keep them.
And where will these displaced workers live? Williston not only is number 1 in the nation for housing shortages but also for rent inflation. Rent here is ungodly. I’ve heard that a one-bedroom apartment can range anywhere from $2,000-$2,500 and a three-bedroom is over $3,000 a month. Houses go for about $7,000 per month. Although there are jobs-a-plenty here in Williston, most will not be able to support the high cost of housing.
As I mentioned earlier, one man found lodging in a dumpster. Others sleep in their trucks or any other vehicle they can find. There are also a slew of what they call, “man camps”. These are basically housing units that are set up like dormitories or a miniature sub-division of portable housing units. As for motels and hotels, forget about it. Many of the big oil companies have rented out all of them for years in advance. Of course, the hotels and motels are required to hold a certain amount of rooms for short-term guests but if you’re lucky enough to get one, you only get to keep a couple of days tops.
Although I disagree with the ban I understand the town of Williston, the residents and administrators, trying to regain a shred of control. But even then, it’s like trying to lasso the moon. You can buy the lasso but how you’re going to get it to the moon is an entirely different and virtually impossible notion. Only time will tell how this will all play out and where we out-of-stater’s will end up.