WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 18, 2010, 10:07 AM

Running with Oil: scarce housing for oil workers

Ross, ND (WDAY TV) - As the oil boom moves through the small towns of Western North Dakota, one thing is for sure: Workers would pay top dollar for a bed. There are so many oil workers in the patch, some sleep in their cars or trucks; any vacant home has been rented. Motels and Apartments are scarce.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Some of the tiniest of towns have been transformed. This as we continue our Forum Communications look at: "Running with Oil" tonight from Ross, North Dakota.

One look at the rusty and tired town of Ross, you realize the 40-people living here in the heart of the oil boom are pretty content with their little post office and hill top bar, but Ross has experienced a growth spurt; growing from 40 to more than 140 recently.

The reason: Oil workers have nowhere to go sleep around Mountrail County. Clay LeMarr and Josh Alley are welders out in the oil patch, pulling down 12-15 thousand dollars a month, but because of the housing shortage there is no where to live. It is all full. They have pulled their travel trailers into Ross joining dozens of others who can't find a bed.

“This is great for me. It is like coming home every night.”

“This is by the far the worst as far as not finding anyplace to go.”

Some oil workers sleep in their pickups. Some oil companies out of Texas have built temporary man camps in Stanley or just outside of town.

This housing crunch the men talk about has become so critical that in nearby Stanley at the Frostee Treat, the restaurant has entered the housing business. You can get ice cream and spend the night.

“The six guys we had in here were very thankful. They had lived in their trucks for a year and a half. They were glad to get out of the cold and it is nice and warm in here.”

The entire Elliot family from Wyoming has joined the boom town of Ross, living out of a camper for the summer. 400-dollars a month to rent a lot, no homes or aparments left to rent. No rooms at motels.

Some will stay, but most will go, but when it is over it is over.

“It is a gamble. Someone could make an investment and get rich or someone could make a bad investment and bust.”

A once sleepy town that come evening prepares for yet another boom day in the patch. To meet some of the demand, two apartment buildings and a motel are going up in Stanley. But some developers are wary about of building, without knowing how long the boom will last.