The Solution For Western ND Housing Shortages Is For Government To Do Less, Not More
Housing shortages in western North Dakota are a good problem to have. Communities and Williston and Dickinson could be like other parts of the country, where joblessness and homelessness are major problems. They could even still be the stagnant, depopulating communities that they were for most of the 1990′s and 2000′s.
Today they’re growing so fast that the biggest problem is finding enough places for everyone to live. Given the alternatives, we should be thankful.
But even so, housing shortages and rising rents are still a problem, and local governments in the western part of the state are trying to get a grasp on how to handle them. Today the Bismarck Tribune has a suggestion. The city and county governments should build RV parks.
The state or counties should find a flat piece of ground and bring in power, portable toilets and water, create lots, lay gravel on grass for trails between spaces and, in general, establish temporary RV parks and tent villages. Charge a reasonable rate. Have rules. Make people sign contracts. And when enough permanent housing is in place, plow it up and reseed it into prairie.
“Because this is overflow,” writes the Tribune’s editorial page, “it would not be in competition with private enterprise.”
Except that it would be. These RV parks would alleviate demand for temporary housing, and would be directly competing with hotels, motels, apartment owners and other RV parks. And not just the ones that are existing, but the ones that could be built to satisfy this surplus of demand.
This is the problem with much of the reaction to the challenges presented by North Dakota’s oil boom. We allow panic to dictate knee-jerk reactions, and it does more harm than good.
In Dickinson, at least on one issue, they seem to get it. They’ve eased regulations on allowing employees to sleep at businesses in order to give businesses and citizens more options when it comes to housing. Rather than doing more, the local government decided to do less.
There is plenty of demand for housing in the west, temporary and otherwise, and so plenty of profit motive for the private sector to provide that housing. The question isn’t what the government can do to create more housing. The question is what is the government doing that is preventing more of that housing from being built?Tags: bakken oil, housing, North Dakota News