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Watford City may rival Williston in size, some believe

WATFORD CITY, N.D.--With massive growth in population predicted in Divide, McKenzie and Williams counties over the next decade, some are wondering if Watford City might soon rival Williston in size.

Workers pour concrete during the construction of the Williston Apartments last year. A statewide housing assessment released in August predicts continuing population growth for northwestern North Dakota, resulting in the need for more housing. File photo
Workers pour concrete during the construction of the Williston Apartments last year. A statewide housing assessment released in August predicts continuing population growth for northwestern North Dakota, resulting in the need for more housing. File photo

WATFORD CITY, N.D.-With massive growth in population predicted in Divide, McKenzie and Williams counties over the next decade, some are wondering if Watford City might soon rival Williston in size.

At the Williston Area Real Estate Summit last week, one panelist pointed to Watford City as the new hotspot for oil in the region.

Panelist Paul Ficara of RE/MAX Bakken Realty has a background in Watford City.

"The city currently serves 7,500 to 10,000, but has the infrastructure for 15,000," he said. "That's really positive for the long term. In Watford City, in the past 18 months, the city has invested $70 million in infrastructure and plans on $30 to 35 million in 2017."

A recent statewide housing assessment conducted by the Center for Social Research and the department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University predicted enormous growth for all three counties in the region, far more than anywhere else in the state.

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The assessment saw the potential growth of 32,000 oil wells by 2036. It also predicts Williston will grow by more than 60 percent in population and Watford City by 80 percent, according to Jill Kjorstad, President of the Williston Realtors Association.

"If you look at the housing study, Watford (City) is going to take a really good increase," Kjorstad said. "Watford City isn't going to surpass us in population, but in growth."

Shifts in age groups and median income ranges were reflected, which drew concern from the panel if the aging population could afford to live in the community.

"Based off of the forecast there's a need for additional housing for a growing community," Ficara said. "What we're seeing is a shift. The builders and developers were just providing a shelter but now we're seeing people try to make communities out there."

According to the report, the number of households in the extremely low income range, falling under $20,000 annually, is expected to grow by nearly 107 percent by 2029 in McKenzie County and 65 percent in Williams County. The very low income range, which is between $20,000 and $29,999, has a predicted increase of 126 percent in McKenzie and 67 percent in Williams.

"(In Williston) It predicts our population to be at 75,000 by 2029. Right now we're right at 35,000. That's a pretty big increase. To suffice we're going to need housing," Kjorstad said.

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