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Cost of worker housing subsidies plagues Williston

WILLISTON, N.D. — As the western North Dakota oil patch hub of Williston grows, so does the amount of money the city needs to subsidize housing for city employees.

City workers get $500 per month for housing, and the total went from $643,000 in 2012 to $1.2 million last year.

“It’s just going to continue to grow unless the rents start to moderate to some degree,” City Commissioner Brad Bekkedahl said. “I don’t see it being less than $1.5 million this year.”

The oil boom has led to a housing crunch as people have flocked to the region in search of high-paying jobs. A national study from an apartment renting guide recently found that Williston had the highest average rent in the U.S., at nearly $2,400 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. The amount is higher than New York City’s and Los Angeles’ average rates.

Williston plans to seek more state money for housing subsidies, which currently are funded with a mix of state funds and city sales tax revenue. The 2012 Legislature gave Williston $60 million for essential housing projects, but the city has about $300 million in needs, according to Bekkedahl.

“As long as we’re identified as the highest rent community in the state, this will continue,” City Auditor John Kautzman said.

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