Is The Middle Of A Housing Crisis The Best Time To Crack Down On Man Camps?

Make no mistake, housing in North Dakota’s oil patch is a problem. There’s just not enough to go around, and the prices for what is available are astronomical. The problem is so bad that some political types in the state are even talking about rent control (which would only make the problem worse, but I digress).

This problem was unavoidable. Many communities in the oil patch have doubled and even tripled in size in a few short years. You can’t have that sort of growth without seeing an impact on housing prices as demand outstrips supply.

But exacerbating the problem has been hostility from local leaders to temporary housing solutions (Williston, in particular, has been hostile to mobile and temporary business in general). I’ve been writing about the side effects of local governments attacking temporary housing solutions since 2012.

By limiting temporary housing, local leaders have pushed demand for homes and apartments even higher, which has a predictable impact on housing prices. Now, in the latest attack on temporary housing, Williams County has fined an oil company $30 million for a man camp zoning violation:

WILLISTON, N.D. — An oil services company and its subsidiary are facing nearly $30 million in fines for a man camp violating zoning regulations in North Dakota’s oil patch.

Western Petroleum LLC and its parent company, Pilot Logistics, are facing fines for violations at a remote man camp.

A conditional use permit for the site was approved for 40 trailers and seven modular units in 2011. But the permits were never renewed.

A recent county compliance inspection found 30 RVs, hookups for 10 more RVs, seven mobile homes and two houses on the premises. Each structure is to be fined $1,000 per day it was in violation of regulations.

According to the article, the oil companies are saying the fines are excessive, and who can blame them? While failing to renew a permit is wrong, a $30 million fine is outrageous. All the more so when you consider it in the context of western North Dakota’s housing shortages.

This sort of heavy-handed leadership when it comes to “man camps” and other temporary housing is making things in the oil patch worse, not better.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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