Small town of Carpio, N.D., may double with affordable housing

Ken Wisniewski, principal for Eagle Homes of Illinois, stands near the site of a future housing development in Carpio, N.D., on Sunday, June 2, 2013. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

CARPIO, N.D. – Work will begin this summer on a housing development that could more than double the size of this small town on the outskirts of the Oil Patch.

Eagle Homes, a residential developer based in Illinois, is building 148 lots in Carpio, which had a population of 157 in 2010.

The project, which will get underway this July, is geared to provide affordable housing for families, said Ken Wisniewski, principal of Eagle Homes.

North Dakota’s oil boom is fueling a demand for workers, but a lack of affordable housing continues to be a challenge for workers and companies trying to fill jobs.

Wisniewski heard about the need for housing in North Dakota at the end of 2011 from a carpenter from Illinois who was in the Bakken for work.

Wisniewski came to North Dakota in January 2012 and began his due diligence to figure out a way to take care of the need while dealing with the winter weather and the shortage of labor.

Eagle Homes, a family-owned business, is responsible for both developing the land and building the homes, which allows the company to keep costs down, Wisniewski said.

After a lot of searching, Wisniewski selected the piece of land in the Des Lacs River Valley just outside of Carpio because it is flat and less expensive to develop, another factor to keep costs down, he said.

“We were very picky,” Wisniewski said.

Carpio Mayor Kalvin Myers said the town on the fringes of North Dakota’s oil activity hasn’t seen much growth while Berthold to the south has had a lot of development.

“It’s actually been really quiet,” Myers said.

The town’s cafe recently closed due to the health of the owner and no one has wanted to reopen it because of the small population, Myers said. But the town has no vacant homes and every time a home goes on the market it sells quickly, Myers said.

The Eagle Homes are expected to sell for $190,000 to $220,000, while many new homes in the market are selling for $275,000 to $350,000, Wisniewski said.

“There are only so many people who can afford those,” Wisniewski said.

The development also will have amenities such as a playground and athletic fields.

To deal with North Dakota’s short construction season, the foundations and the garages will be constructed on site but the custom-built homes will be constructed in Detroit Lakes, Minn., Wisconsin and Iowa.

At least 30 to 50 homes are expected to be complete this year, with the entire development finished by the end of 2014.

The development is about 25 miles from Minot, 20 miles from the Minot Air Force Base and about 10 miles from Berthold.

“It’s really ideally located,” Wisniewski said.

Eagle Homes is looking at other communities in the Bakken for future projects but looking for land that isn’t too expensive to develop.

“We could do as many as 300 homes a year if we could get the land,” Wisniewski said.

Reactions to the development are mixed in the community, Myers said.

“Some are excited to see something going on around the area and others would like to see things stay quiet because that’s how they like it,” he said.

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