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County’s population projected to triple

Posted 10/03/12 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

A newly-released study says that McKenzie County’s population could triple in the next 15 years. And that projected growth only fuels the need for more housing.
For Watford City and McKenzie County officials, the lack of new single family homes and apartments has been a major issue. But the results of a 2012 statewide housing assessment prepared by the NDSU Center for Research could finally be the answer to the lack of new home construction. And according to Gene Veeder, director of the McKenzie County Job Development Authority, “It’s what we’ve been waiting for.”
Veeder says that people ask all the time why housing isn’t getting built.
“There are a number of reasons,” states Veeder. “One, people are waiting for infrastructure. And two, money has been slow from investors and developers.”
According to Veeder, the need is apparent to people living in western North Dakota, but there hasn’t been anything to substantiate and show that need to investors until now.
“When this report came out and I showed it to investors, they said, ‘This is exactly what I need,’” Veeder states.
The 2012 North Dakota Statewide Housing Needs Assessment notes some key findings with regard to population shifts in different age groups, as well as by median income ranges. It then breaks this information down by region and county.
The report projects that Region 1, which includes McKenzie, Williams and Divide counties, will experience more growth than any other region in North Dakota from 2010 to 2025, and that McKenzie County will show the largest growth by percentage than any other county in North Dakota.
“I am glad more time was spent on this study to take into account the long-term reality of energy development,” states Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford. “The last state study performed projected Watford City to level off at 2,500 people into the future. We, in this community, know there will be a long-term demand for more workers and we know the communities may grow five to 10 times over the current levels, not the percentage increases projected in the prior study.”
Additionally, according to Sanford, “We really needed this information to help pitch our case to the governor and Legislature in conjunction with showing them the infrastructure dollars needed in Watford City during the next biennium.”
According to the report, the population in Region 1 increased 11 percent from 2000 to 2010, with a total of 30,829 people in 2010. Current population projections indicate a dramatic increase in population throughout Region 1, reaching 73,164 people by 2025. Additionally, it is projected that populations in Divide and Williams counties could more than double, while McKenzie County’s population could nearly triple.
In McKenzie County, the population of people under the age of 25 is expected to grow from 2,212 in 2010 to 4,105 in 2025, a change of 85 percent. People ages 25 to 44 are expected to see the most growth, rising from 1,455 in 2010 to 5,745 in 2025, a change of 294.8 percent. Finally, people ages 45 to 64 are expected to grow from 1,791 in 2010 to 5,083 in 2025, a change of 183.8 percent, while people age 65 and over are projected to grow from 902 in 2010 to 2,177 in 2025, an increase of 141.4 percent.
In 2010, according to the report, there were a total of 2,468 occupied housing units in McKenzie County. That need is projected to increase to 4,834 by 2015, 6,585 by 2020 and 7,345 in 2025, a 197 percent increase.
“No matter what age group, our housing needs are predicted to more than double in the next 15 years. And now we have something concrete to show investors that we not only need housing units, but that we will be able to fill and sell them,” states Veeder.
What’s more, according to Veeder, is the housing available in Region 1 doesn’t meet the current need and is severely lacking for people on fixed or low to moderate incomes.
According to the report, the number of households in the extremely low income range will grow 164 percent by 2025, the very low income range will grow 188 percent by 2025, the low income range will grow by 197 percent, the moderate income range by 216 percent and the upper income range will grow by 207 percent.
“There is growing concern for the elderly, as well as those who are disabled or handicapped, and whether they are going to be able to live here,” states Veeder. “There is very little housing that meets the needs of those who are on a low or fixed income, which is what makes the LSS Prairie Heights project and the Wolf Run project so necessary for our community.”
The data in the report shows housing values in 2010 range from $50,000 to $90,000. However the report states that the increased demand for housing will likely result in higher housing values and rents, and that housing unit projections suggest the housing demand for all income groups in Region 1 could double, and in some cases triple, by 2025.