Posted 12/08/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
An incomplete occupancy survey conducted by the City of Tioga showed apartments are about 68 percent full.
Advertised rates show rents have fallen somewhat since last year, but they remain well above national averages.
Melissa Koch, who was economic development coordinator for the city, initiated the survey. It looked at hotels, RV parks, campgrounds, and apartments.
The survey was conducted in September and October. Koch left her position in October before the survey was complete, but data was collected for 26 out of 33 local RV parks, hotels, and apartments.
Koch surveyed rentals, which included apartments, townhomes, and duplexes, for a total of 546 units. At the time, the responding contacts for the rentals reported 371 of those units were rented.
Among the largest of the complexes in Tioga is the Olson Apartments and Olson Duplexes.
Stacy Vejtasa, who manages the complexes, said they’ve been hovering around 60 to 65 percent full since the slowdown in the oil industry began last year.
“We definitely have a lot of availability, which begs the question why are man camps still open?” Vejtasa said.
Williston has been moving steadily towards an ordinance that would close all crew camps by next year, with permanent housing developers lobbying heavily for the measure.
The Tioga Commission has also signaled it’s considering similar moves to eliminate some of the temporary housing in town.
Representatives of crew camps argue the businesses target a specific, transient population that’s not well served by conventional rentals. The crew camps offer meals on demand, cleaning and laundry services, as well as other amenities that cater to the residents’ long hours in the oil field.
Vejtasa said apartments would be better for these workers, as they would be more conducive to families. Residents of man camps, for example, have to pay for hotels when their wives and children come for a visit.
“We provide a more stable home environment,” she explained.
Though the apartments don’t offer cooked meals, daily cleaning, or laundry services, Vejtasa said Olson Apartments and Duplexes have been offering more flexible leases and better rental rates to appeal to oil workers who may be reluctant to sign long-term leases in the current unstable oil environment.
She said their rates have dropped 40 to 50 percent.
Crew camps are experiencing decreased demand as well. Just recently Capital Lodge ceased operations. Target Logistics, which sits across the highway from Capital Lodge, continues to operate.
Parks and hotels
Other temporary housing options appear to be experiencing the same decrease in demand. Charles Barton, owner of Big Tex RV Park, said they currently sit about half empty.
The October survey noted only three spots available out of 31 at the park. The parks usually experience a decreased demand in winter.
The survey found hotels were about 50 percent full in October. Melanie Cann with Black Gold said the occupancy rate ranges from 30 percent to as high as 75 percent full.
“It depends . . . It fluctuates,” Cann said.
Advertised rents continue to show much higher rates than state and national averages in Tioga, even though they have dropped considerably over the past year.
MyApartmentMap collects data on verified apartment listings across the country, and crunches the numbers into maps and charts posted online.
According to the service, the average two-bedroom apartment in the state goes for $1,095 per month.
This is compared to $820 in South Dakota, $917 in Montana, and $1,165 in Minnesota.
The state has seen an overall decrease of about $60 per month since July.
Tioga Townhomes on Elm Street advertises two-bedroom units for $1,590 per month on Craigslist.
Tioga Apartments on North Welo advertises one-bedrooms for $1,390 per month.
MyApartmentMap shows the average one-bedroom apartment rates in the state at $909 per month.
The service noted the national average rates for one-bedroom apartments at $997 per month, and average two-bedroom rates are $1,220 per month.