Community Dividend

North Dakota oil boomtown has nation's highest rent

Published April 1, 2014  | April 2014 issue

Apartment rents in Williston, N.D., are the highest in the U.S., according to a recent study by Apartment Guide, a national apartment-hunting web site. As reported in the Williston Herald, the study ranks communities according to their average rent for a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment. Williston, which is located in the heart of western North Dakota’s booming Bakken oil shale region, ranks at the top of the list, with an average rent of $2,394 a month. That’s more than $500 higher than the $1,881 average rent for a comparable apartment in the second-costliest market on the list, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., and higher still than the average rents for comparable units in major metropolitan areas such as San Francisco ($1,776/month), Boston ($1,537/month), New York ($1,504/month) and Los Angeles ($1,411/month).

Williston’s sky-high rents are a side effect of the huge influx of oil workers to the Bakken region over the last several years. The city’s population has swelled from just under 15,000 as of the 2010 Census to an estimated 30,000 today, and demand for housing has far outpaced supply. Another Bakken oil boomtown—Dickinson, N.D., located approximately 100 miles south of Williston—ranked as the fourth-costliest community in the Apartment Guide study, with an average monthly rent of $1,733. Officials in North Dakota are moving to address the housing crunch; for example, the state recently created an incentive fund to raise money for the construction of affordable housing units. (For more on Williston’s population growth, see the March 7, 2014, Minneapolis Fed blog post at For more on housing costs in the Bakken region, see the article “North Dakota oil boom squeezes seniors who rent” in the October 2012 issue of Community Dividend, available at