North Dakota housing boom sets new record as rents soar


By Rob Port | North Dakota Bureau

BUILDING BOOM: As North Dakota grapples with a housing shortage and sky-high rents, the state is set to see a building boom in housing unlike anything the state has seen in modern times. According to data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, housing starts in May as measured by issued building permits for single family homes set a new record for the state, beating the previous record set last year by more than 50 percent.

BISMARCK, N.D. — Housing is booming in North Dakota, and it couldn’t come at a better time.

The state has made national headlines for housing prices that rival those in urban centers like New York and Los Angeles, but help may be on the way as unprecedented levels of new home construction begins.

According to data collected by the St. Louis Federal Reserve, housing starts as measured by issued building permits spiked in May to an all-time high. The state issued building permits for 818 new, privately owned single-family homes. That’s up from 416 in April and sets a new record for the state.

Due to bitterly cold winters, the building season in North Dakota is cyclical. Every spring sees a spike in housing starts, particularly in the past several years, as energy development has driven booming population growth.

But North Dakota has never seen anything like the housing starts planned this spring.

The previous record for issued building permits was set in August 2013, when 519 new building permits were issued.

A housing start is an economic measure calculating the number of new private homes that began construction during a given period.

The new supply of housing will be welcome in a state where rents and home prices have soared, though some national reports have exaggerated the problem. A February blog posting by rental listing website Apartment Guide listed Williston, in the heart of North Dakota’s oil patch, as having the most expensive rents in the country. But a review of rents in Williston by Business Insider found that the Apartment Guide analysis may have suffered from too small a sample size.

I think what you’re seeing are listings posted on websites, and these are the ‘creme de la creme’ — if you can call it that, luxury apartments in Williston,” Katie Long of Williston’s economic development council told Business Insider.

Still, high rents are a problem for some. Residents of two trailer parks in Williston are saying they can’t afford to continue living in the city after their lot rents were more than doubled, and the problem isn’t limited to the oil patch. In Stutsman County, on the opposite side of the state from the oil patch, housing officials conducted a study finding a need for at least 1,200 more housing units.

Dan Klein, with the Stutsman County Housing Authority, believes his area’s housing needs are even greater than the study indicates. “Now we are looking a number that is two or three times greater than that,” he told KXNews.