N.D. housing market doesn’t promise a view
By Jonathan Thompson
If you’re paying $4,500 per month in apartment rent, you’d expect to have a great view, wouldn’t you? Perhaps the red towers of Golden Gate Bridge rising majestically from the fog? Or joggers in beautiful Central Park, far below your penthouse suite? These days, however, a high-priced apartment is just as likely to overlook rows of doublewides on the wind-blown prairie, with the towers of distant drilling rigs looming through the snow.
Williston, N.D., now has some of the nation’s highest rents, rivaling even San Francisco and Manhattan. And not because Aspen’s bored amenity migrants are flocking to some hot new artisan toast purveyor in the hinterlands of the Peace Garden State. Rather, the Roughrider Country has high-paying jobs for roughnecks, causing the laws of supply and demand to twitch as if they were jacked up on oilfield methamphetamines.
“$$$Tired of Wasting Money? Want out of the man camps?” one Craigslist ad asks. A mere two grand will rent you a sprawling 250-square-foot apartment. Or try a “Luxury Cabin” – all 480 prefabbed square feet of it plopped down in an RV park – for $2,850. One ad promises the North Dakota Housing Solution, which is a sort of pop-up house: “If your job requires you to move on down the pipeline, simply fold it back up and move it.” Of course, you’ll still need a place to put it, and RV lot rent isn’t peanuts, either: $795 per month.
A meander around Craigslist reveals other Williston-area cultural nuggets. The “casual encounters” section is as raunchy as anywhere, and there appear to be far more men looking for men than seeking a heterosexual hookup. And in the “rants and raves” section, one exchange seems to be on a repeating loop. Someone from, say, Kansas City, asks: Are there really a lot of jobs up there in the oil fields? And a local chirps: Yup, and you’ll rake it in, but then you’ll lose all your money to landlords, local retailers and car repairmen, and “you will be stuck here and probably as broke as you were at home. Oh, and bring a woman with you.”
Jonathan Thompson is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is a senior editor for the magazine in Durango, Colo.