Little oil town has nation’s highest rents

By Cory Heikkila

As far as big cities go, Houston isn’t so bad when it comes to renting a small apartment, according to a survey from Apartment Guide. That’s especially true when you compare prices against one surprising little town.

The group lists the average monthly cost for a one-bedroom apartment in Houston at $817. Compare that to Los Angeles, where you’ll pay an average of $1,411 for the same dwelling. In the New York area, you can expect that to cost around $1,500.

But those aren’t the highest rent costs in the country.

That honor goes to Williston, N.D., where the average cost for a month’s rent in a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom pad can run $2,400.

Job growth: North Dakota poised for another hiring blitz

But why Williston, nestled near the Missouri River on the northwest side of North Dakota? Do they have a thriving art, food, and bar scene? Are hipsters flocking there to create their own little paradise? Is it the proximity to Theodore Roosevelt National Park?

Nope, it’s an oil boom that is making Williston so expensive.

“The town has been through two oil booms, an industry that is cyclical in nature,” said Katie Long, communications director for economic development in Williston.

The first boom was in 2000 and went full-bore in 2008. The Bakken Shale, which stretches between North Dakota and Montana, has been a focal point for the nation’s current oil boom.

“Rents are very high here, but we also have an area mean income that is about $79,000,” Long said.

You can still find older complexes renting out a two-bedroom for around $1,500, according to Long, but they are scarce.

Sushi restaurants and breweries are popping up where they weren’t before. Long said a $70 million rec center complete with a lazy river is opening in late March. City parks are being revitalized. There are also several master planned communities coming up to accommodate families in the area.

“We want guys to bring their families here,” said Long. “The goal is to get the family to come here.”

Houston housing: Energy industry helping drive Houston housing demand

The price for building materials and labor is also higher, which makes housing costs increase.

“Prices get hyped out here, but we’re in the middle of nowhere,” said Long.

Long said that years ago people were coming to town to work, but there wasn’t enough housing for everyone.

“People were sleeping in campers in the Wal-Mart parking lot,” she said.

What they need now are single-family homes, and lenders and builders to make them a reality. Companies like Baker-Hughes, Weatherford, Halliburton, and Schlumberger are building super centers to keep all offices in the same complex. Halliburton has even built neighborhoods for its employees.


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