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Posted 2/10/10 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

If you spend any time sitting around the coffee table visiting with businessmen, attending public meetings, or talking to people who are interested in seeing the population of Watford City grow, one of the first statements you are bound to hear is, “Watford City can’t grow until there is more housing to accommodate all of the people that want to live here.”
It’s a good point that is well taken. Watford City can’t grow unless there is good housing available. And that housing needs to be in the form of both apartment-style units as well as single family homes.
And there is no one who will question that people who are now working for any of the numerous oil field companies in and around Watford City that are servicing the area’s growing oilfield are desperately needing housing. Over the past several months, the McKenzie County Farmer has ran stories of how people who could not find any other housing are living in campers, tents or any other form of living quarters that they can find.
So one would rightfully assume that indeed there is a shortage of good housing available within the community.
But then if there is such a housing shortage, how does one explain the fact that of the 24 apartments that were built by Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and opened for rental over two months ago, 12 of the units are still unoccupied? And to further cloud this particular question, how is it possible for these 12 units to still be not rented if at the time of the project’s construction there was a waiting list of 120+ individuals waiting to move in?
Granted, some people who initially signed up to rent these units may have found housing elsewhere in the community or have chosen to stay in their campers while they wait out winter with plans to make their move once spring arrives.
But even if that is the case for some people, it should not be the sole contributing factor as to why these apartments are sitting unused. In this week’s front page story in the Farmer, LSS personnel responsible for filling the apartments with renters have expressed their frustration with the time that it has taken for people wanting to rent an apartment to complete their applications and submit them to the office in Fargo for approval.
While no one wants to tell LSS how to go about renting out their units, perhaps instead of relying on the mail service to get applications back and forth, it would be more expedient for LSS to set up an office in Watford City on a temporary basis to get the paperwork completed expeditiously and the units filled with people that need the housing.
Without a doubt, Watford City is in desperate need of more housing. So to see any homes or apartments sitting empty is not only perplexing, it is troubling.