Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Road Construction Boom Provokes North Dakota Housing Shortage

Out of state contractors submitting low bids on the booming North Dakota highway construction project schedule are discovering that housing for their workers near the job sites is very scarce, and very expensive. North Dakota Highway Department Director of Construction Cal Gendreau says the number of out of state contractors working on projects for his agency is up 20% from the level six years ago. North Dakota awarded 103 out of a total of 192 bids on highway projects to out of state contractors this year.

For both in state and out of state road builders, the oil patch construction boom in the state is shrinking the housing supply and driving rental prices through the roof. Spokane’s Acme Construction won a bid on an $18 million road widening job, only to find no place for workers to live near the site. The company ended up purchasing land along the road it was widening, bringing in two heavy duty diesel generators, two mobile homes and a small village of fifth wheel campers, and hooking it all up to a 1,000 gallon sewage holding tank to make room for the crew. Oftedal Construction’s Project Manager Mike Schriner is running a $62 million road job through the Badlands, and reports similar worker housing woes: “We’ve got guys living in tents in Little Missouri State Park.” Schriner’s employer put one employee to work full time just finding places for crew members to live. Trailers in nearby communities rent for $1,550.00 per month.

Of course, North Dakota taxpayers are footing the bill for all this expensive temporary housing. North Dakota DOT’s Gendreau says, “We know they need to cover their housing expenses and it’s built into their bid.”

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