Causes And Effects Of Excessive Land Greed In Dickinson, North Dakota

The entire population in the state of North Dakota is currently less than 800,000 people.  There is more vacant and unoccupied land in North Dakota than just about any other state.  The land in North Dakota is mostly barren and desolate.  There are very few trees, rivers, or mountains, it is mostly grassland.  But I have never before seen people so excessively greedy about land as around here in Dickinson, North Dakota.

One of the few explanations that I can determine why the people around Dickinson have been so greedy about land is that nothing else really exists here in North Dakota.  They could have been greedy about coal, oil, horses, or cattle, but that pretty much involves land too.  Another explanation that I have written about before, was that the people around Dickinson never envisioned becoming successful through ingenuity, innovation, or creativity, but just by getting more land.

If you ever watched the old West television shows like Gunsmoke, Rawhide, High Chaparral, The Virginian, and The Rifleman, there were always episodes where some insane old fucker was trying to shoot at people who came near his land, bought the adjacent land, were thinking about buying the adjacent land, or he was trying to kill his neighbor in order to take his land.  These insane old fuckers that were trying to shoot people are actually more rational and less mentally ill than the land owners in and around Dickinson.

The land outside of Dickinson is worth about $1,000 per acre without the mineral rights, because there is just so much vacant land in North Dakota.  Outside the Oil Boom areas in North Dakota, you can still buy land for $1,000 per acre.  If the Oil Boom does not come back to western North Dakota within the next five years, land owners outside of Dickinson will only be able to sell their land for about $1,000 per acre.

However, during the Oil Boom, there were many land owners in and around Dickinson that would not sell vacant barren grassland for even $10,000 to $70,000 per acre, without the mineral rights.  In the other states where I lived, Florida, Virginia, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho, these states grew, development extended out from the towns into the wetlands, orange groves, farms, prairies, and deserts.

In every other state where I have lived, when a town or city needed to grow, it would grow outward.  The least expensive new housing would be the apartments, next least expensive the town homes, third least expensive would be manufactured homes on small private owned 1/4 acre lots, then conventional framed houses on 1/4 acre lots, then manufactured homes and conventional homes on five acre lots, and so on.  This outward growth did not happen in the Dickinson area because of the excessive greed of the land owners.

Yes, apartments did get built just on the outskirts of Dickinson.  This is because the developers went ahead and paid more than $100,000 per acre in order to construct three-story apartment buildings, side to side, and back to back, with the intention of renting each unit for $2,000 to $3,000 per month.

Just about every working adult realizes that for $2,000 per month, for that kind of money, that would be like paying the mortgage on a $250,000 house.  Why would you want to pay $2,000 per month to live in an apartment, $24,000 per year, and not own anything?

Beyond the new apartments, why weren’t there new manufactured homes on 1/4 acre lots, and new conventional homes on 1/4 acre lots.  There were some, but not that many.  A manufactured home costs about $80,000, a 1/4 acre lot in a development should cost about $30,000 with the utilities completed, that’s a cost of $110,000, couldn’t a developer sell that for $150,000?  There would have been about one thousand individuals and companies trying to get one of those, because the mortgages would have been about $1,100 to $1,200 per month, much less than rent, and you would own the home and the land.

The reason that affordable home ownership did not occur in and around Dickinson during the Oil Boom, was because the land owners would not sell land at all, thinking that the land was much too valuable to sell for any reason, or because they would not sell land for less than $100,000 per acre.  We are talking about vacant, unoccupied, desolate, grassland that stretches hundreds of miles in every direction.

It has not been talked about or written about explicitly, that all of the workers who came to western North Dakota to work during the Oil Boom made up their minds right away that they would never be able to live here permanently due to the extremely high cost of housing.  But this high cost of housing was completely, completely created by the excessive greed of the land owners in and around Dickinson.  No where else in the United States is there such an abundance of vacant, unoccupied, barren, desolate grassland stretching for hundreds of miles.

Because of the excessive greed of the land owners in and around Dickinson, not only have most of the out of state workers left, more will continue to leave, and they will never want to come back.  Some merchants, property owners, and business owners made a lot of money for about seven years.  But what good will that do these merchants, property owners, and business owners when they can’t make any money for the next five, ten, twenty years because they drove all the new residents away?

That property that all the land owners would not sell for less than $100,000 per acre, the tax appraiser will asses high taxes for the next five years at least.  By the time the land owners in and around Dickinson have to go to the nursing home, their land will be appraised at about $1,000 per acre.  It will cost them about 100 of those acres per year in the nursing home.  That will be reaping what they have sown.

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2 thoughts on “Causes And Effects Of Excessive Land Greed In Dickinson, North Dakota

  1. Sown, not sewn. I have often wondered why there are so very few small acreage neighborhoods in the area. Is it because prices were too high and potential developers balked? Somebody’s got to sell the land to a developer who’ll see the project through for such places to exist. Why that apparently happened so infrequently here, I don’t know. Maybe they believed people don’t want such places or maybe (as you’ve suggested) the prices were always out of line.

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    1. Yes, you are correct, I changed “sewn” to “sown” in the above blog post, I have to go back and change it in other blog posts too.

      I will answer your questions and comments on lot sizes in the following blog post, because I have too much to say about it, to just write it in a comment.

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