Democrat Legislative Candidate Demands Rent Control In Western North Dakota


Back when Democrats were twisting arms to get candidates into western North Dakota legislative races, lest they be embarrassed by the number of races they let go unchallenged, Brenda Vondell was one of the warm bodies they found at the last minute to fill a race.

She’s running for the state House in District 1, which is in the Williston area.

Now Vondell, a self-styled community activist, may have some Democrats doing a facepalm as she organizes a rally for…rent control.

Barbara Vondell, a community activist, is organizing members from the People of Williston have had Enough Facebook page to participate in “peaceful protests” Friday.

After a recent transition of ownership, more than 170 tenants in FM Trailer Court expect to see lot rent increases from $300 to $850 while others living in newer trailers will see increases from $500 to $850, Vondell said.

“People are afraid. The elderly are afraid,” Vondell said. Tenants now pay lot rent on a monthly basis. The trailer court is located near 6th Avenue West.

Protests are scheduled for 2-4 p.m. across from Williston City Hall and 4-7 p.m. in Harmon Park.

“We want to draw attention to the fact that city hall is who we are fighting,” Vondell said. “We want city government to step up to the plate.”

Vondell wants to engage in a dialogue with the city commission about rent control, and whether the city board can communicate with the governor to discuss rising rents in Williston.

“I agree we need growth, but not at the cost of the people who’ve sustained this community through not just this ‘oil boom’ but others,” Vondell wrote in a letter. “New buildings such as apartments, single-family homes are a bit different than out-of-state companies coming in and purchasing already established properties and raising the rents to double and almost triple the cost.”

This isn’t the first time Democrats have flirted with rent control. Back during his 2012 campaign for Governor, Ryan Taylor suggested that it was unfortunate that rent control is illegal in North Dakota.

And it is illegal, for good reason.

We may not like what some landlords are doing with rents during housing shortages in western North Dakota, but since when should prices be set by public opinion? What’s more, when demand increases and supply doesn’t, prices should go up. That’s how the market slows demand and accumulate capital to build more supply.

Rent control, when exercised in other parts of the country, has led to nothing but exacerbated housing shortages and destroyed communities. As is true in every other part of our economy, when the government impedes the laws of supply and demand it results in shortages and suffering.

Vondell seems to think that rent control will fix Williston’s housing problems, but it will do the exact opposite. Rent control would ensure that those looking to invest in building more housing – increasing supply and making rents more competitive – don’t invest at all.

Frankly, higher rents are good for the housing situation in the long run. Higher rents signal to property developers that there is room in the market for more housing supply.

But one thing Vondell has done for us is illustrate perfectly why she shouldn’t be in charge of public policy.