"We’re not in Kansas anymore."
That could be how some residents of the state's Harper County are feeling as an influx of workers following an oil drilling boom has caused rent prices to skyrocket, CNNMoney reports. Housing has become such a rare commodity in the area that residents are paying more than $2,000 per month to rent trailers; A bed in someone’s basement goes for around $500. Before the boom, it wasn’t unheard of for a two bedroom house to rent for $400.
Dubbed the “year of the landlord” by one Morgan Stanley analyst, rent prices in most cities have been rising in 2012, but demand is especially high in boomtowns that promise plentiful work and six-figure paychecks. In Harper County, entrepreneurial residents are renting out whatever space they can to take advantage of the housing shortage, according to CNNMoney. Old banks, laundromats, even an abandoned horse and dog racing track are being turned into living quarters and rented at rates more familiar to Manhattan than small-town Kansas.
The already well-established oil boom in North Dakota, which boasts the lowest state unemployment rate in the country, continues to face similar housing issues. At the center of the boom is Williston, which has seen its population double to 30,000 over the past decade, spurred by an average wage increase to $80,000 from about $32,000 in 2006.
Camps filled entirely with oil workers have popped up as a result. Walmart evicted workers living its parking lot in February because the camp was having a negative impact on shoppers' experiences.
Though oil booms have brought wealth to Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Kansas and elsewhere they've also come with other drawbacks, in addition to housing shortages. Schools in Williston, for example, face overcrowding due to a 22 percent increase in the number of students over the past two years, with many more expected next year.
What workers are doing when they aren't on the rig is also of concern for some. Bar fights, as well as drunk driving, are becoming increasingly common in boomtowns. For example, Sweetwater, Wyoming, whose boom began more than a decade ago, saw arrests for drunkenness, drugs and DUIs more than double between 2000 and 2008.
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