Take a look at the latest copy of the Jamestown Sun newspaper. In the most recent copy that I have, Saturday, September 29th, there is one column of apartments/mobile homes for rent. There is also about one column of houses/land for sale. Then turn the page and see that the entire next page is filled with Help Wanted advertisements.
Now, consider that next Spring, construction will begin on a new fertilizer plant, east of Jamestown. The recent article in the Jamestown Sun said that construction would begin in 2014, but I have read other articles saying that it could start sooner, and permitting and other issues would be ongoing. The construction of the plant is expected to take about four years. So, at some point within the next six to eighteen months, the population of Jamestown will grow by about 15% to 20%.
We don’t know exactly where these people will come from, or exactly when they will be coming, but one thing is certain… they will come! When you look in the newspaper and see that there are two to four times more ads for “Help Wanted” than there are places to rent or buy, you can see that the current population of Jamestown is not enough to supply the employees needed.
Currently, I personally know six different families and individuals that cannot find suitable housing in Jamestown, and are forced to live with relatives or in hotels because of how tight the housing/rental market is. One of them (maybe two) were forced into eviction from their prior rentals because the landlord/management company knew that they would be able to raise the rent for new renters.
Many different factors have contributed to the current housing crisis, but the booming economy in Western North Dakota is a huge factor. Jamestown and Valley City (among other places) are getting the “overflow” from the economy to the west of here. This is both a good place to be in, and also a huge problem.
The problems will be compounded if something is not put into action right away, though! I’m sure that most people have heard some of the horror stories coming out of Western North Dakota. $3000 per month rent for a one bedroom apartment. People living in their mini-vans or even in tents. I just heard a story from a guy, yesterday, about a lady that lives in a mobile home. Her furnace wasn’t heating as well as it should have been, so she called a serviceman out to look at it. It turned out that there were three guys living under her mobile home, and they had disconnected some of the heating ducts, so the heat would be re-routed underneath the mobile home.
Some of the other problems associated with bringing in workers from other parts of the country will (and already have) affect Jamestown. Even though our influx of population will not be quite as dramatic as it has been out west, we will see the same thing happen. Prices for goods and services will rise. Property value will increase. Initially supply will not quite be able to keep up with demand for basics. With an extra 2000 people moving in to town, things like bread, milk, and beer will be in high demand.
The time for Jamestown to act is NOW! I have lived in Jamestown for the past sixteen years, and I have paid attention to how our City Council and various other government agencies do things. There is way too much “planning” and “studying” and “brainstorming” in anything that needs to get done. Obviously, there needs to be some planning and studying, but this coming crisis needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. There is no time to do things how they have done them in the past. Kicking the can down the road for years will not work!
Temporary housing, “man camps” or “crew camps” are not the answer! If we are truly serious about “growing Jamestown” the permanent housing market in Jamestown needs to be built up. If there are plenty of decent jobs available, but there is no place to live, people will not come. The development ordinances need to be looked at, and the regulations need to be lightened to influence building, right away. Even though there may be a higher number of vacancies once any temporary workers leave, the fact is that they will be here for up to four years. Many of them may even decide to stay.
The city government needs to look at housing as a long-term investment. The increase in long-term property tax, sales tax, water and trash will be sure to offset any type of initial investment that they put into this. When the population of the city grows by 15% to 20% that’s also an increase in the amount that the city receives.