‘Insane Rent Hikes’ Spur Protest

Williston, N.D., residents affected by high rental prices hold a protest on Friday, May 9, 2014, in Williston. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Diana Avans moved back to Williston in 1991 to be near her mother, but now she worries she can’t afford to stay.

The retiree received a letter last week that the monthly lot rent in her trailer court will increase from $300 to $850 in June.

“This is just the beginning,” Avans. “You know they’re not going to stop at $850.”

Avans joined a handful of people who participated in a protest Friday afternoon across from Williston City Hall, holding signs that called for stopping “insane rent hikes” and protection for the elderly.

The protest, which continued Friday evening at Williston’s Harmon Park, was organized by Barbara Vondell, who arranged a similar event in November when a different Williston trailer court increased its lot rent.

This time, the issue hits even closer to home for Vondell because her mother is one of the Williston residents facing a steep increase to live in her trailer.

Vondell’s mother, who is 77 and has Alzheimer’s, receives $720 a month in Social Security benefits, but the lot rent will be $850. Vondell, her caregiver, said she’ll be able to cover the increase in rent.

“It’s going to be a struggle, but we’ll make it,” said Vondell, who is running for the state Senate to fight for affordable housing.

City commissioner Tate Cymbaluk, who stopped by to visit with some of the participants, said the investors who purchased the Williston trailer parks have taken advantage of the situation and are placing a severe hardship on residents.

“It’s a true picture of greed,” Cymbaluk said.

Although state statutes prohibit rent control, Cymbaluk said he wants city commissioners to have a discussion with legal counsel about whether there’s something that can be done to lessen the burden on residents.

Vondell and others at the event called for the city to make an effort to “grandfather in” rental prices for the elderly and people on fixed incomes.

“Something’s just got to be done,” said Steve Irgens, a lifelong Williston resident who now pays $1,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.

When Irgens moved into that apartment 12 years ago, rent was $190. He recently paid $650 a month until a New York company purchased the building raised rent to $1,000, Irgens said. Tenants were unable to sign leases that are longer than six months, and Irgens fears he won’t be able to stay in Williston if it goes much higher.

“Everybody in the building’s kind of scared,” said Irgens, who works for a silk screen T-shirt business.

Vondell said she thought more people would be at the protest, but some are afraid of repercussions if they speak out.

“People are scared,” Vondell said. “The elderly, especially, they don’t want to say anything because they’re afraid to get kicked out.”

3 Responses

  1. Marilyn

    My husband works for a construction company in ND and does not make the money that the oil people pay. They can’t afford to stay in the campgrounds in ND at a price of $800 or more and most don’t even have sewers and electricty is extra! The oil workers ruin the roads that have to be fixed every year and the construction people, who only work 6-7 months a year to fix the roads, can’t stay at the campgrounds. I think something needs to be done for the people who work at other jobs other than the oil business so they can stay in ND. People got greedy with the oil people coming in and they forgot about the people who have lived there all their life. Sad state of affairs.

  2. Peggy Neal

    Come to Fargo, and see the rent raised by the same greedy owners. In my building, the rent was recently raised 50$, a month. I’m sure it doesn’t seem much in relation to the rent increases out in the oil field areas but when the owner does nothing to improve the building and its contents, its a sham. Everyone in my building is on rental ass’t, but me, so they don’t notice the rent increase, and Goldmark has the apartments all tied up with Goldmark owning and managing almost every building in Fargo.

  3. Al Hallock

    I’ve been in the oilfield “On the Rig” over 20 yrs, in 13 states. I’ve seen this before in Booms, usually takes a couple yrs as it has here, remember it started major drilling program in early 08′; and everyone thought it would go bust…
    Here’s How to Stop LandLords “Not oilfield” from raising rents…Capital gains Tax
    And Terms on those taxes..?, For instance if a landlord raise rents from $400 to
    $1000 that’s 60% increase he must then pay 1/2 30% tax increase for the next 10 YEARS Weather or not he rents the Unit. Lock in ! not matter what even if he tries to sell, Buyer is Locked in And the 10 yrs starts over. Believe me they will worry about that tax and reconsider rent hikes, . Also oilfield hands feel ripped off too, It takes One check to Work in the patch and the other is saving,buying whatever, It should not matter if you work at Wal mart, McDonalds or Drilling rig rents and price should stay low and equal/Fair for everyone. Final note-Do we really Need Pumping & Production Records, We don’t need Camps, the oil has been there 10 million years We don’t need to Deplete Our State resource in the next 20 and face a possible bust, Let’s make it last, import workers and drilling operators and contractors should have to pay $1000 per head Per month for Non-Residents. Let’s keep the money here in ND, Let’s take care of us 1st..!
    Quote from Al ” Want to conquer a Kingdom- Wine and Dine the King” meaning
    Lynn Helms, Gov,Sen,and minyons have sold us out and Don’t care what’s really happening to us peasants….emaial me rigrun2014@outlook.com
    Love ya all God Bless

Comments are closed.