If We Have Too Much Oil Patch Housing Let's Stop Subsidizing It

oil patch

In Williston housing developers – people and companies who have built apartment buildings and hotels and single-family homes – have overbuilt the market. With oil prices in the tank, and workers leaving oil patch communities, they’re finding it hard to fill what they’ve built.

As a short term solution, they’ve decided to kneecap the competition. They’re going after companies operating so-called “man camps” which cater to oil workers who work rotating shifts in the Bakken oil fields, and so far they’re getting their way.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]The oil boom brought many people to North Dakota who will end up making this wonderful state their home. But it also brought many people who are just here to work a job, and have no interest in tying themselves to permanent housing. There should be room in the oil patch housing market for companies which serve both interests.[/mks_pullquote]

The Williston City Commission voted 3-2 for an ordinance to eliminate the man camps next year. Amy Dalrymple reports that there is still a compromise possible which might allow a longer timeline for phasing out the crew camps which operate a smaller number of facilities in the interim, but that’s so much lipstick on an ugly pig.

These crew camps should only be phased out when the housing market in the oil patch dictates it. As it stands now, the companies operating these facilities are reporting that they’re still more than half full, and oil industry companies and their workers say they want these services available.

But the developers want to force those workers into apartments and hotels and homes. Williston Mayor Howard Klug has said he wants the camps gone because he doesn’t want Williston’s development to be temporary, which only proves that the mayor still thinks the boom era for Williston was the new normal.

Here’s a hint: It wasn’t.

The oil boom brought many people to North Dakota who will end up making this wonderful state their home. But it also brought many people who are just here to work a job, and have no interest in tying themselves to permanent housing. There should be room in the oil patch housing market for companies which serve both interests.

Sadly, the developers want the market to themselves, and have the Williston City Commission on their side in driving out the competition.

It’s shameful, really.

So here’s the thing.  If the developers don’t want to compete with the man camps, then fine. The taxpayers don’t need to subsidize the developers any more.

Let’s eliminate Governor Jack Dalrymple’s Housing Incentive Fund which, frankly, was never a good idea to begin with – a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the developers – and likely contributed in no small way to the overdevelopment in places like Williston. If there is such a surplus of housing in the oil patch that man camps can’t be allowed to operate in Williston then state taxpayers needn’t be subsidizing more.

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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