Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

More downsides to the Bakken expansion

Rental prices are sky-high in Williston and elsewhere around the Bakken. When I describe the rent situation in Williston to my friends here in California, I’m not quite sure if they believe me.

Here are five stories over the last few weeks describing the pain that causes.

Amy Dalrymple, writing at The Dickinson Press, describes Faces of the Boom: After return to hometown, 76-year-old struggles to stay

The woman interviewed says when she returned to Williston about 10 years ago, her apartment rent was $550 a month. It just increased again to about $1,300. She has gone back to work part-time to cover the current increase. She used to be on a one-year lease but now the apartment is on a month-to-month contract, which allows for increases any time.

Just as a guess, I think there is a reeeeally long waiting list for anything in town with a price of $1,300. Two-bedrooms? From what little I know, I think that is an incredible bargain.

Some folks think price-controls will make everything okay.

Writing at her blog, Oil Patch Dispatch, Ms. Dalrymple also reports Group protests rent hikes in Williston, seeks help from city. A number of retired folks were interviewed describing the difficulty from seeing their lot rent go from $350 a month to $750. With 30 days notice of the increase, that leaves little time to scrape up the extra money or move.

The group is gathering signatures to petition the city to limit rent to 30% of a person’s income.

They obviously haven’t thought that idea through to consider the disruption that would cause on one hand, and on the other hand how precious little it would do considering the amount of units coming on-line. Nor have they checked out state law, which prohibits cities from limiting rent, as the mayor pointed out in an interview.

The mayor also explained why there is no simple solution. He

…said the problem for the city is that companies can double the rent and still find tenants due to the housing shortage driven by the oil boom.

Just as a guess, the mobile home park management will still have a waiting list at $750 a month. They might still have a waiting list at $1,000 a month.

The Dickinson Press also reports Booming Bakken prompts medical expansions.

Hospitals and clinics are struggling to handle the increased patient load. Some places report client counts have tripled in the last three years.

Clinics are struggling to find staff and struggling to pay their staff enough so they can afford to live in the area. There is also a need to draw more staff who can handle the industry-specific injuries that are now present.

Here’s a question for you – – how would you handle your customer count tripling in the last three years? How would you staff up if your staff couldn’t find housing at less than $1,300 or $1,800 a month?

Until the housing stock catches up with the employment levels, there will be ongoing pain and disruption.

Finally, in the eventually-the-sky-will-fall-and-everything-will-collapse category, there is a report from a Sioux Falls, South Dakota TV station: The Real Cost of the North Dakota Oil Boom.   

The article mentions all the stats I would expect:  Traffic accidents in Williams county went from 115 in 2008, to 700 last year, to 500 already in late 2013. Two bedroom apartments are going for 2,200 or 2,500 a month.

The police are capturing lots of drugs. A motorcycle gang is reportedly operating in the area. There are about 4 murders a year.

Final comment is land that used to sell for $1,000 an acre is now going for $10,000. The article even reports there is land in Williston going for $181,000 an acre. A word of advice – if there is an operating well on that particular section, it might be worth more than $181K. If there are multiple pumping wells, you might want to look at it again – could be a bargain.

Amy Dalrymple, again, on the challenges USPS is having with staffing: Mail for rural Williston stacks up after postal workers quit. Four postal staff have quit in the preceding few weeks. That has left a backlog of mail for delivery. Housing prices and other challenges are affecting USPS staff, just like everywhere else.

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