Williston Housing Market Still A Crunch

by Eric Crouch | Apr 29, 2014
Roers Analyzes Housing Shortage in Williston

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Space to call your own is at a premium in western North Dakota.

A recent national study found that the highest average rent in the nation for a 700 square foot, one bedroom apartment is in Williston, at almost $2,400 a month.

While construction is working to catch up, the demand is still far outweighing supply.

"Our mantra is 'build baby, build'...we're going to build our way out of this thing." Shawn Wenko of Williston Economic Development said.

For economic developers like Shawn Wenko, keeping up with the demand of housing in Williston is a constant challenge.

"It's going to take some time to get over the hump." Wenko said.

He says that the reality of the current market doesn't resemble the signage greeting drivers on Second Avenue.

"We're seeing Williston move from a boom to business model now...several years ago you saw it was the crew camps and the hotels that were going up like wildfire, then that moved into the apartment units. What we're seeing, the trend in 2014 is the single family homes are now coming." Wenko said. 

But the rent will be high for awhile, and Wenko says many workers are looking to surrounding communities for lodging.

"Even as far as getting into Montana and South Dakota are seeing a benefit from the Bakken oil boom." Wenko said.

Housing units have doubled over the last five years but it's a short building season, causing many residents to double and even triple up.

"You see a lot of living situations where you're living with a roommate or several roommates in an area just to offset some of the cost," Wenko said.

Last year's brutal winter caused the ground to remain frozen even now, several feet deep, stalling major construction jobs and causing construction firms frustration, with a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it.

"Last year at this time, we were going full go. This year we're off to a slow start...we're already a month behind." Jeremy Easum said.

Jeremy Easum of Roers Development says he believes the market may be a few years away from coming back to earth.

"As people come out here and they do get into the single family homes and the single family lots are available, the need for apartments would go down, that's what we're seeing. Once that happens, then you can see the market stabilize," Easum said.

In the meantime, one of the biggest challenges Roers faces is finding contractors to put shovels in the ground of developments like this 120-acre plot west of town.

"We don't bid a lot of work, however in Williston we had to bid out some work and that was the struggle is finding people to do the jobs," Easum said.

For Wenko, the problem isn't finding people, it's finding a place to put them, so he is asking anyone considering a move to oil country to think ahead.

"We really like to get the word out that you have to have a plan if you're coming to Williston. You just can't show up here on your last dollar, running on fumes." Wenko said.

Make sure you give Williston developers a little more time to "build baby, build" first.

Another possible reason the developments are moving in the direction of single family homes...There were around 800 babies born last year in Williston, so many families are looking to put down roots.

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