How Excessive Land Greed Has Hurt Dickinson For Ever

I wrote about “Causes And Effects Of Excessive Land Greed In Dickinson, North Dakota” in my previous two blog posts.  In many other blog posts, I have described and explained the extremely high cost of housing in western North Dakota and Dickinson that occurred during the Oil Boom from 2007 through 2014.

Both in their behavior and in their actual statements, many business owners, merchants, land owners, home owners, real estate agents, and property developers indicated that they believed the Oil Boom would continue for much longer than it did.  This belief seemed to inspire high pricing:  If you want some place to live, you better take this, the prices are only going up;  If you want some place to live, you better take this, soon there won’t be any place left;  If you want to make this money here, you better take this, it will be worth it in the long run.

The out of state workers paid very high prices for housing because they had no choice, they believed they had to take what they could get before prices went up more or somebody else took it, and they believed with a high amount of pay it would be worth it in the long run.  The out of state workers and the out of state companies hated the extremely high housing prices.  They became aware that prior to the Oil Boom, the one bedroom apartment they were now renting for $1,800 per month, had been $400 per month.  The old three bedroom house that they were now renting for $3,000 per month, had been $600 per month.

The out of state workers and out of state companies felt like they were being gouged and taken advantage of.  They felt like if they were willing to leave their homes, families, and friends and travel all this way to work in a cold and barren environment, that that overtime pay should go in their pocket, pay off all of their debts, or build their savings, not go to their local landlord, who was not making any kind of sacrifice or facing any hardship.  This bad feeling about being gouged made both the out of state workers and out of state companies have bad feelings about working in Dickinson.

But forget about bad feelings about working in Dickinson, the reality was that workers were paying $1,800 per month for a one bedroom apartment, or $3,000 per month for an old three bedroom house.  The out of state workers and out of state companies knew all along that they could never afford to stay in Dickinson if the high paying work went away.

But it did not have to be this way.  There are hundreds of miles of barren, desolate, vacant, unoccupied grass lands stretching in every direction outside of Dickinson.  More vacant unoccupied land than almost any other place in the United States.  In other states, I have seen 1\4 acre lots in completed developments for $25,000.  To put a new manufactured home on one of these lots would have cost an additional $80,000 to $100,000.  To put a conventional home on one of these lots would have cost an additional $125,000 to $150,000.  These types of new homes would have had mortgages of less than $1,500 per month.

Everything could have turned out differently for Dickinson, North Dakota.  If Dickinson would have had new manufactured homes or new conventional homes with mortgages of $2,000 per month, thousands of skilled workers and trades people would have made Dickinson their permanent home, and out of state companies would have relocated operations here.

The truck drivers, welders, pipe fitters, heavy equipment operators, plumbers, and electricians, they are always having to travel out of state to work on big projects, no matter where they live.  If they would have come to Dickinson, expecting that they were going to be here for at least several years, they would have happily and gladly bought a home for $2,000 per month.  They had the income and job security to do it, and they would be owning something.  They wouldn’t have had any hesitation, if the oil field work went away, they could work other big projects in other states, they always had.

If Dickinson had had these new affordable homes, many trades people would have been able to pay them off in ten years if they had a wife who also worked, or room mates.  There could have been vast neighborhoods of new homes with so much equity in them, that the owners were not about to walk away from them or fail to pay their property taxes.  The workers would have had more disposable income and a place to park boats, motorcycles, ATVs, snow mobiles, and campers. Once workers get equity in a home, all the toys they want, their wife and kids, they are stuck, that is their home.  If money problems come up, then the worker has to travel out of state and send money back home.

I don’t know if any one in Dickinson ever realized, that the excessive land greed in Dickinson, where land owners would not sell vacant grass land for less than $100,000 per acre, resulted in and will result in Dickinson losing most of its workers, and causing land to be worth about $1,000 per acre because no one wants to live here.  You’ll see.

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