The Cost Burden Of Pursuing Distant Opportunity: Unaffordable Housing

1940's era postcard titled greeting from Williston North Dakota with sketches of the significant buildings in the community
A new report documents how economic booms affect housing prices. Workers in Williston North Dakota pay housing prices higher than New York City, thanks to the petroleum fracking industry.

Getting on the success bandwagon by upping stakes and moving to a new location has always been pricy. Whether it’s anecdotal history from the gold rush, or more recent and reliable evidence from modern ‘lands of opportunity’ such as North Dakota and its boom in oil fracking.1 The story is almost always the same.2 Arriving hopefuls find scarce housing and high costs.

Freddie Mac3 has recently released a report that provides statistical backbone to anecdotal tales of housing hardship. The focus of their study is booming cities that are attracting high numbers of new residents. The availability of housing in boom towns cannot satisfy the demand, and inevitably, it drives up the cost of housing.

The message is clear. There is a normal, one might even say healthy, time lag in homebuilding when a regional economy ‘lifts off’ into a boom. Incomers hoping to capitalize on the opportunities of that economy may expect higher housing costs. They may even become at least temporarily cost burdened by the expense of housing themselves.

Except in the very narrowest local sense however, this would seem to be a normal, natural period of housing price adjustment. In the eyes of the Mortgage Professional Association, this isn’t a real housing crisis that needs government intervention. In the long run, the shortage will eventually solved by an opportunistic housing industry. Read more on this Freddie Mac report, in MPA Magazine: Freddie Mac: Affordable Housing Cannot Keep Up With Population Boom


  1. Read more in TRIPLE PUNDIT: Fracking Boom: Some North Dakota Rentals Now More Pricey Than NYC
  2. One exception: company towns, where a boom town is created, staffed and housed by careful planning. These are usually resource-based industries, but for an unusual service-based company town, try: New Zealand Employee Affordable Housing Supplied By An Unusual Company Town
  3. Freddie Mac (officially the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) is one of two US Congress-chartered GSE’s (Government Sponsored Enterprises) that were created to help low income Americans obtain mortgages. Freddie Mac started operation in 1970, whie the other GSE, Fannie Mae (officially Federal National Mortgage Association) was founded in 1938.


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