Homeless in a Boom State

WILLISTON, N.D. — When Joey Scott arrived here recently from Montana, he had no trouble finding work — he signed almost immediately with a company working to drill in the oil fields. But finding housing was another matter.

Mobile homes and so-called skid shacks line up in a mobile home park in Williston, N.D. The park’s new owner has said he plans to update and expand the park.

Every motel in town was booked, some for months in advance. Every apartment complex, even every mobile home park, had a waiting list. Mr. Scott found himself sleeping in his pickup truck in the Wal-Mart parking lot, shaving and washing his hair in a puddle of melted snow.

This would seem like a perfect situation for tiny/small house builders to move in and show what could be done. What do you think?

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Grant Wagner - April 21, 2010 Reply

Sounds like a great opertunity if you can take it. Buy some property, and start renting it out. I can’t imagine buying a descent RV or building a mobile house being any more expensive that two or three months in a hotel, and you can still park in a walmart parking lot.

Char - April 21, 2010 Reply

Yeah live in a Walmart parking lot, rape the land, then pack up and leave a poisonous mess.

ginmar - April 21, 2010 Reply

Sounds like somebody could give these poor workers a shot at tiny houses, which would give them their own safe little shelters that are movable in case of a bust. Once built, it’s built, that’s it, and the workers are less likely to be gouged by, say, company stores and company housing.

ginmar - April 21, 2010 Reply

You know, this would be a great place for shipping container homes, too. There’s all sorts of options that could be made available to these people. With the economy the way it is, people really NEED to be able to take their homes with them.

Oh, by the way, anybody who wants to look up gypsy wagons and vardos should be aware that the French word for vardo is “roulotte”. It opens up a whole new WORLD when searching for them online.

Benjamin - April 22, 2010 Reply

I would think out of work builders all over the country would be packing up their trailers and RVs and heading out there to build new homes for the workers.

et - April 22, 2010 Reply

Even tiny houses need infrastructure (water, roads, electricity, schools) even if it is less than large houses.

ginmar - April 22, 2010 Reply

They build RVs with storage and water tanks. An RV park could serve as a first stop for thees people.

Steve W - April 22, 2010 Reply

FEMA has been selling off their old Hurricane Katrina trailers for a while now. Too bad it would be cost prohibitive to ship hundreds of used trailers to the opposite side of the country. Maybe they could ship them by train?

ginmar - April 23, 2010 Reply

The FEMA trailers are poisonous, overpriced, and shoddily-built. They’d be better off with some of Jay Shaefer’s tiny houses.

Container houses would be a great idea for this kind of thing. I bet they even have them there already.

    Stephen A. - December 20, 2011 Reply

    Ginmar: I also immediately thought of container housing and the Tiny House movement when I saw earlier articles on this boomtown’s housing shortage. It’s a tremendous opportunity.

      Linn - March 7, 2012 Reply

      Most of the allowed man camps are made up of rows and rows of almost barracks-style pristine white container housing. There are bunkhouses and restroom facilities. The oil companies have some kind of contract with someone, because they set up dozens of these identical shipping container buildings at a time. The problem is that the counties and municipalities are re-zoning and/or setting up ordinances to block man camps. Remember, this is a transient worker population with very high wages, and with it comes a LOT of increase in crime and other social issues. Williston is all but destroyed by it, and nobody else out here wants it. I would gladly sell my 40 acres to accommodate something like this idea, but I suspect my county has also taken steps to prevent this.

LibertyTreeBud - December 2, 2011 Reply

I can see a great opportunity for design and building insulated housing but I envision a movable community of everything you could need in a mobile but warm and inviting, solidly build housing development. Unique and well built; eco-friendly and cost saving. The ‘tiny home’ movement is perfect and the land on which to park could be landscaped to include laundromat and grocery; hardware and housewares and they could all be ‘mobile’. Daycare and other services could be incorporated into a new way of living. Alternative building materials could be used. It is a challenge for those up to it.

Linn - March 7, 2012 Reply

I live in ND, and I can say that it is in desperate need of disaster shelters, not tiny houses, unless the tiny houses are already pre-built. Waiting the months for a craftsman to build one would be impossible, first of all. Secondly, there will be NO PLACE to put it. Walmart in Williston kicked everyone out of their parking lot a month or so ago. The people trashed it and had parties and became impossible to host. Most area counties and cities are making ordinances against “man camps” which will make developing a piece of land as an RV park nearly impossible. You would pay a LOT of money for that piece of land, by the way. We are planning to sell our home and farm, and we will be able to sell it almost instantly (when we’re ready) for 5 times what we paid for it 12 years ago. The boom is escalating, and they are estimating over a decade before there will be any sign of decline. All hotel rooms are booked ahead by the oil companies. You cannot hire anyone in construction here to help with anything – there is a big demand currently for construction workers. (Don’t forget the 10,000 or so homes lost last Summer in the Minot and Bismarck floods.) It’s a real mess, here, and no solutions in place. Tiny houses would be great, if you could haul them in already built and turn key, and can help the buyers locate them somewhere. You would get top dollar for them, also. People currently working in this state make a VERY good wage.

Joseph A. Bonasses - April 27, 2013 Reply

No, I think they have it figured out. None of these people have plans to stay in North Dakota if and when the boom/bust cycle turns, they are there for the jobs. Most of these oil workers are probably paying mortgages on homes back where their family members live….So the RV really is the best solution. Building permanent homes for jobs that won’t exist in 10~20 years doesn’t make a lot of sense, actually….

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