From Sen. Kent Conrad‘s office.
WILLISTON, N.D. – Senator Kent Conrad and Congressman Earl Pomeroy were joined today by the United States Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, to get a firsthand look at the severe housing challenges facing communities in western North Dakota.
Senator Conrad called the meeting of federal, state and local officials to consider ways that the federal government could support ongoing efforts by state and local officials to address the severe housing shortage that has resulted from the huge oil discovery in the Bakken and Three Forks formations.
“North Dakota’s benefits from the oil patch are unique, but so too are the challenges it has produced. The economic boost we’ve seen simply isn’t sustainable if we can’t find a way to provide legitimate housing options for the men and women in Williston and surrounding communities,” Senator Conrad said. “Secretary Donovan is working with us to explore ways the federal government can partner with North Dakota communities to help them overcome challenges facing housing and development.”
“The Bakken discovery has generated tremendous opportunity for our state, but it has also generated an unusual set of challenges that must be addressed to enable this growth to continue,” Congressman Pomeroy said. “By involving local leaders in western North Dakota and Secretary Donovan, we can implement solutions that will make a real difference in this region.”
After a brief tour to see firsthand the lengths some workers have gone to put a roof over their head, Senator Conrad, Congressman Pomeroy, Secretary Donovan and Governor John Hoeven met with leaders from Williston and surrounding communities to consider all available options to alleviate the significant shortage of adequate housing in the region.
Among those representing oil-impacted communities at the meeting were: Williston Mayor Ward Koeser; Lyn James, Presidents of the Bowman City Commission; Nathan Germundson , President of the Tioga City Commission, Crosby Mayor Les Bakken, Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford and other community leaders.
Senator Conrad has worked hard to address the housing issue with the local community, noting that a lack of adequate housing could stunt the economic benefit to the region. Earlier this year, Senator Conrad convened an official field hearing of the Senate Budget Committee in Williston to explore the critical housing shortage facing western North Dakota communities.
Congressman Pomeroy is also working with local leaders to address the region’s housing challenges. Earlier this month, Congressman Pomeroy announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had agreed to increase home loan limits for Williams County, allowing more low-and-moderate-income home buyers to purchase housing in the area, alleviating some of the housing crunch in the region.
Due in large part to the abundant oil and natural gas reserves, the economy in western North Dakota is thriving. Government estimates put the potential recoverable oil from the North Dakota portion of the Bakken formation at 2.6 billion barrels, and potentially up to 1.9 billion barrels in the Three Forks formation. Currently, 143 oil rigs are drilling in North Dakota, and officials say that figure could reach 150 this year. But because of the boom of new residents, there is not enough housing to meet the needs of the population.
In case you missed it, Forum Communications Co. just ran a comprehensive eight-day newspaper and TV series about North Dakota’s oil boom. You can check out the reports online at www.runningwithoil.com.