After Lori Patrick’s letter to the editor appeared in the Nov. 15 issue of The Dickinson Press, it appeared that she and her husband were being forced out for good from western North Dakota because they could no longer afford their rent payment of $1,700 a month. Here’s an excerpt of her letter:
“This is just a word of advice to people who are potentially thinking of coming to Dickinson; don’t do it unless you are in the oil field or supporting the oil field jobs.
For the simple folks who work at the schools, restaurants, stores and such, it’s just not worth it.
Both myself and husband have decent jobs but we simply cannot make it here due to the greedy local landlords trying to capitalize on this boom.
I work two jobs and my spouse works one, although it is fair money with good benefits we can’t make it here anymore. After one year of struggling here, we have to give them up and go home to an impoverished area with no employment whatsoever. I find this to be ridiculous and heart-wrenching.
Shame on the gougers of this area, taking every penny one makes just to have a place to live. We are so much further in debt than when we came out here….
So in closing, all I can say is beware, this is a very hostile, money hungry, disrespectful, no rights-for-tenants town.
How disappointing this area has become. I am sure at one time this was a wonderful community that one could make a living at and be proud to be a member of this town that cared about their people. After speaking to several senior citizens, I find it terrible that they fear for their own housing and are also being forced to leave their own homes after being here their whole life. Shame on the greed. Thank you for listening to my story.” – Lori Patrick
I contacted Lori recently to get an update on their situation – I was both curious and concerned. She took a courageous step by sharing her story with many readers in the same situation she was in, and I wanted to find out how she was faring.
When I spoke with her in early December, Lori had just returned to North Dakota after a 14-hour drive from Michigan, where she and her husband still own a home with $320 a month payments. She had to take of some financial matters while in Michigan, but she had returned back to the Dickinson area because they found an answer to their problem.
Someone they had previously contacted about rental housing had seen Lori’s letter to the editor, and called to say he had a trailer they could rent from him for $1,100 a month.
“Two months before I even wrote that letter (to the editor) we had looked at this place (the trailer) and it was hopeless. It needed plumbing and electric and all that stuff. So I gave up on that and two months went by until I wrote that letter,” she said. “He called and said he was getting the trailer all ready so we should come out and see it and talk, so that’s what we did and we negotiated a workable price. It’s still high, but it’s not like it was.”
Lori wants to hang on to her home back in Michigan as her backup plan, plus she said home sales are sluggish there. “If I can’t make it here, I need a place to go to retreat,” she said. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen down the road.”
Before they found the trailer option, Lori and her husband lived in the top of a house, with noisy neighbors living below them. “We’re in the country now – all we have to worry about is cow,” she said, laughing.
I asked Patrick to describe her former landlord – she said she strongly believes he was motivated by pure greed. She said she begged him to lower their rent to $1,200.
“He wouldn’t budge. He said, ‘you knew how much it was when you moved in here.’ We’re not oilers, but they’re gouging the oilers, too, it’s not just us. It might not hurt them as much because they get company housing,” Lori said. “But for people like me and my husband and friends I know, you can barely make it here. Like I said to my husband, look at the price we have to pay just to be two productive, working human beings.”
Lori and her husband lived in the Gillette, Wyo. for part of the oil boom there, and they both agree that rent gouging is much worse in the Bakken. “There (Wyoming) $1,000 a month was considered gouging,” Patrick said. “Here, they’re just crazy.”
The Bakken area is providing many jobs to those who can’t find them elsewhere. But the housing situation has been way out of hand for several years now. Rents have doubled and tripled almost everywhere in western North Dakota. I doubt one article (or 1,000) articles will shame many landlords into lowering the rent on apartments, mobile homes and houses. And N.D. state law prohibits rent control on private property. The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency does what it can to help provide affordable housing, but it’s not enough.
What’s the answer? If you have ideas on this topic or, please add a comment.