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Bakken: Think Your Community Has a Housing Shortage???

Bakken Drilling Rig -Williston, ND
Bakken Drilling Rig -Williston, ND

Had the great pleasure of taking a trip yesterday to Williston, North Dakota to see firsthand the economic activity underlying the development of the Bakken oil formation. It was an amazing sight, one I suspect is typical of the early oil and gas booms that reshaped areas of Pennsylvania, California, Texas, and Oklahoma.

The most interesting issue they face is coping with a lack of housing in the region given the tremendous population explosion. Cities I have worked with in the past have often lamented the housing shortages they face. I think now I really know what a housing shortage looks like.

In typical oil and gas industry fashion, they have come up with a number of creative solutions. Note below the widespread use of very large ‘man-camps’ and portable housing units.

Typical Bakken Mancamp
Closer look at a mancamp in the Bakken
These are a bit homier









Given the entrepreneurial nature of people, I was not at all surprised by Halliburton’s reuse of Vancouver Olympics housing. Yes, they are stacked cargo containers. They had it shipped in and placed on site near their location in Williston. However, I can’t say that I would be able to live in a converted cargo container.

Halliburton reusing old Olympic game housing

But, the VEC Housing Units… I can, in fact, say whether I would be able to live in one of these!  They are located in the Wal-Mart parking lot, so at least you have retail nearby.

Portable housing units

Not sure I could live in this
At least they have windows...








Traffic problems are another common issue with rapid economic growth, and this is true in the Bakken areas as well. This is typical of the traffic pattern around Williston.

Traffic is very heavy all over town
Typcial Williston, ND traffic light

There are several regions across the U.S. that could experience similar growth from oil and gas activity in the coming years, and Williston has been a gracious and effective guinea pig in working out the kinks. Well worth the trip to Williston, North Dakota if you can arrange a visit.

A special thanks to my host and tour guide Mark Zaback of Jonah Bank in Casper, Wyoming, and Cary Brus of Nerd Gas Company, also in Casper.



Mark C. Snead is President and Economist at RegionTrack.

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