Oilfield city of Williston, North Dakota, has highest rents in US

Influx of highly paid workers in Williston, N Dakota, makes it pricier than New York

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 February, 2014, 8:58pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 4:08am


The rapidly growing oil city of Williston in North Dakota now has the highest average rent in the United States, a study shows.

A 700 sq ft, one-bedroom apartment in Williston costs an average of US$2,394 a month, said Apartment Guide, an online website for apartment hunters.

The same flat would cost US$1,504 in the New York area, US$1,411 in the Los Angeles area or US$1,537 in the Boston area, the Williston Herald reported.

The population of Williston, in the northwest corner of the state not far from the Montana border, has more than doubled since the 2010 census.

Estimates put the number of people within the city's limits at more than 30,000.

The city and developers have lagged behind the influx of oilfield workers, some of whom earn six-figure annual salaries. Their presence has led to hugely inflated rents and a shake-up in housing supply and demand.

"A lot of management companies have long-term projects in the pipeline, as long as the demand and infrastructure are there," said Pam Winter, Apartment Guide's Regional Sales Executive for North Dakota.

"Projects that will be 300 units by the end of the year are looking to be 800 if it continues to boom. Currently, I have not seen many concessions, and one of the developers raised his rent in January."

Nearby Dickinson ranks fourth on the list, at an average of US$1,733 a month. Boston is sixth, New York is seventh, Los Angeles is eighth. Chicago didn't even crack the top 10.

Williston city officials recently established an Affordable Housing Committee to look at how the community can encourage more developers to build with reasonable rents and home prices.

The state has created the Housing Incentive Fund, which provides dollar-for-dollar tax breaks for donations to help build affordable apartment units for essential workers.

Many of the new apartment buildings feature mudrooms, where workers can remove dirty shoes before entering.

Winter added: "I think they are optimistic the oil boom will be around for the next 20 years because of the different levels of oil to which they now have access through fracking.

"I just don't know, with the weather, that many people who are working in the oilfields will stay for more than two years."