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Study says Watford to grow to 2,655 people

Posted 12/22/10 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

It is apparent that there is a housing shortage in Watford City and several other communities in western North Dakota. However, a recently completed housing study is being viewed as a good tool for Watford City.
The study, which was funded in part by each community along with the state of North Dakota, looked at North Dakota communities that are being impacted by oil and gas development. The purpose of the study was to document and demonstrate the ongoing housing needs in the communities of Watford City, Parshall, New Town, Stanley, Tioga and Williston for the next 20 years.
“This study is simply a picture and starting point for us as a community to get a handle on who is here and who is expected to come to the area,” says Gene Veeder, executive director of the McKenzie County Job Development Authority. “The study will give us a projection of long-term employment and how many people are likely to stay in the area.”
According to Veeder, the now completed housing study will be a tool for the City of Watford City to use so it can decide how best to help the community.
“This study gives the city a starting point,” adds Veeder. “No one wants to get stuck like communities and businesses did in the ’80s. This study will help people to see where the needs are and how long they will last.”
The housing study looked at what is here now and what the projections are. While compiling the study, Ondracek, Witwer, and Bertsch, (OWB) the company that completed the study, used past and present knowledge of the Bakken and Three Forks formations along with industry projection to determine what will happen over the next 20 years. With this information, they predicted that Watford City will stabilize at around 2,300 people in the year 2030. With a current population of 1,823, the study shows Watford City’s population peaking at 2,655 in 2025, with the number beginning to gradually fall after that.
“The study wasn’t a surprise to me,” says Veeder. “I have been predicting a population of 2,500 for a while now, so 2,300 seems about right.”
The study found that Watford City is lacking in rental housing, and it also pointed out that in order for a newly built rental property to be profitable, the tenants would need to pay around $1,200 per month.
“Rental housing is expensive to build,” adds Veeder. “I think that is why we are lacking in that area. However, now that the city knows that rental housing is what is needed, they know where to invest financially.”
Veeder considers the housing study to be just one component of a much larger picture.
“The study in conjunction with a road study, employment study and an infrastructure study will give the city and anyone else interested in investing in the area, a good idea of what is needed and how much it will cost to get it here.”
With the housing and road studies complete, area investors including the City of Watford City are anxiously waiting for the other studies to come in so that some decision can be made. Until then, permanent and temporary residents of McKenzie County will continue to struggle with housing as new units are being built and rental campers and trailers are being brought into the community on a daily basis.
“Things are happening in the community,” adds Vedder. “I believe that our housing needs will be met within the next 18 months.”