When I look at the statistics for this blog each day, there are hundreds of views from more than a dozen foreign countries. The majority of my blog views are not from North Dakota. I think that North Dakotans intentionally try to not read my articles, because they don’t like what I have to say.
Ninety percent of my viewers don’t even know why I am writing about Dickinson, North Dakota. During the 2007-2014 North Dakota Oil Boom, this place was like no place else in the world, except for Williston, and Watford City. It was a spectacular mess here, in both a good way and a bad way.
Western North Dakota is very, very sparsely populated. The land is rolling grassland prairie, with extremely high winds and very cold temperatures in a long, more than six month winter. Most of the local young people with any intelligence, ability, talent, or ambition tried to get out of here because it was miserable.
Up until 2006, most of the local jobs paid about $8 per hour. Why only $8 per hour? Because everything was controlled. Wealthy people, high-paid professional people, business owners, property owners, bank employees, hand-picked government employees and civil servants, all played a specific role in keeping wages low, controlling who got hired for what job, who was able to live where, who was approved for a mortgage, car-loan, or student financial aid.
However, when the 2007 North Dakota Oil Boom began due to both the high price of oil at that time and the invention of hydraulic fracturing oil extraction, the immediate demand for labor caused oil companies, oil service companies, tanker truck companies, and heavy construction companies to offer $16-$23 per hour to anyone who could just show up.
Within a couple of years, the wage-control and employment-control in Dickinson was shattered. Anyone could get a high-paying job in Dickinson, it didn’t matter what their last name was, who they were related to, who they knew, where they were from, or what they looked like.
The housing control, that was a different story. There became a great shortage of housing. Local wealthy people, property owners, business owners, and banks focused all of their anger, hatred, evil, and wickedness on taking advantage of out-of-state workers seeking a place to live. Old one-bedroom apartments that had rented for $300 per month prior to the oil boom, quadrupled to $1,200 per month. Homeowners rented tents in their backyards for $750 per month.
Large real estate developers from out-of-state began building extended-stay motels, apartment buildings, and single-family homes as fast as they possibly could to try to cash-in during the oil boom. In 2013, the newly completed extended stay motels wanted $750 per week for a room, that’s $3,000 per month for a room. (Keep in mind, the mortgage payment for a $600K house is $3,000 per month.)
After the North Dakota Oil Boom ended in 2015 due to the price of oil falling and remaining below $80 per barrel, most of the out-of-state workers left western North Dakota and returned to the states where they came from. It took a couple of years, but by 2017 the apartment owners across Dickinson had to greatly reduce the cost of apartment rent, there was an abundance of vacant apartments.
Homeowners and real estate agents in Dickinson refused to believe that the oil boom was over, and continued to have houses for sale at ridiculously high prices. That was O.K., because there wasn’t anyone around to buy these houses anyway. In the small towns within a 60-mile radius of Dickinson, there began to be many “for-sale-by-owner” houses for $50K-$150K that were a good deal for this area, because the recently created higher wage-rates had not fallen very much.
For the first time ever in my life, after having lived in eight different states, now in my late forties, living in Dickinson I found that housing was affordable in comparison to local wage rates. For a large two-bedroom apartment, my rent was only 10% of my income. For my next-door neighbor who had kept his job on an oil drill rig, his rent was only 6% of his income.
I am well aware that this affordability of housing in comparison to wage-rates only exists because of the over-supply of apartments after the North Dakota oil boom ended in 2015, and most out-of-state workers left this area. If there was a large influx of workers to this area, the apartment rents and house prices would go up, and the wage-rates would go down. So I can’t be widely advertising for people to move to Dickinson, because it would ruin everything.
Several months ago there was a middle-aged woman living in Massachusetts who began writing to me about the difficulties that she was having. There were few job openings where she lived, competitiveness for jobs, low wage-rates, mistreatment and being taken advantage of at work, very high housing costs, crime and drug dealing where she lived.
I felt sorry for this woman. After corresponding with her for a few months, and reading her blog post articles, I believed that she was intelligent, hard-working, dependable, and independent, and that she could do very well in Dickinson. I know for a fact that she would have no difficulty obtaining employment in this area because of the kinds of jobs that she had had in the past, nor any difficulty finding a cheap place to live, that was much safer than where she is currently living.
I explained in detail to her why and how she could move here, but to my amazement and disbelief, she said, No, that’s O.K. I couldn’t believe this! She had described to me that she was doing worse than living paycheck-to-paycheck, she couldn’t afford the house that she was living in, her employer was abusive, her neighborhood was bad, her neighbors were criminals and drug dealers. I didn’t regret trying to help her, but it turned out to be a waste of my time.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a young couple located in the Tampa area, who had been sleeping in their Honda Pilot SUV for several months because they couldn’t afford a place to live. Both she and her boyfriend had jobs, but they were not making enough money, they had bad credit, and no one would rent an apartment to them. I watched about ten of their TikTok videos where they showed where they had been renting for $1,000 per month, but this condominium unit was sold to someone else.
This young couple, the boyfriend had a college degree in something like marketing, both he and his girlfriend had student loan debt. They didn’t seem like bad people, criminal people, or drug addicts. I had lived in Tampa for about five years, I know how unfriendly and cut-throat that area can be, it’s almost like a competition or a game that people make to try to hurt and take advantage of weak people. I can see people in Tampa trying to make things as hard as possible for this couple, rather than just helping them a little bit.
I wrote this couple a concise, thorough explanation about the cost of living in Dickinson versus the pay-rate, that they would be much better off trying to live here, but I got absolutely no response whatsoever. This made me angry. Like I said, I know what it is like to try to start out in Tampa after just graduating from college, it’s hard, it’s scary, but I know from experience after having lived there, becoming professionally successful and making money there, that it wasn’t worth living there if you want to have quality of life.
It is unbelievable to me, that I can explain to people living elsewhere, that the amount of hostility and aggressiveness that they deal with minute-by-minute driving in Massachusetts or Tampa, that is the result of scarcity of personal space, competitiveness for jobs, money, housing, every resource, that they don’t have to live like that at all, they can leave, they don’t understand.
Can anyone living on the east coast or west coast understand how much easier life is, how much less stress there is, when your housing cost is less than 10% of your income? I have read that due to the real estate hyperinflation in Boise, Idaho, that local people are having to pay up to 50%-60% of their income for rent now. Yet when I do try to explain to people how they don’t have to live like this, no one listens to me.
I understand why people do not want to live in North Dakota, most of my blog post articles are expressing something negative about North Dakota. But aside from everything else that I have written in this blog post article so far about economics and cost-of-living, North Dakota is least affected by riots, looting, civil unrest, crime, drought, flooding, tsunamis, earthquakes, Covid, taxes, restrictive laws, excessive regulations, and social class snobbery.
I tried to never, ever, write a blog post article describing that Dickinson is a good place to live, but it turns out that apparently no one listens to me when I explain its benefits. I don’t want many people to move here, but I don’t mind if someone in a really bad living circumstance would take advantage of this brief time and place of affordable cost-of-living.