Boomtown Housing Shortage: Police Chief Forced To Live in RV
"It is home for now," Seminole Police Chief Bernie Kraft told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. He's been searching for a permanent home since he started the job in November, but the housing crunch has kept him in his 31-foot RV.
"The last few storms rocked me to sleep," he told the paper. "I just consider it an extended camping trip."
The Permian Basin oil boom, propelled by new technology, has revitalized cities in the area, flooding city coffers with new tax revenue, and sparking construction projects on a scale that residents haven't seen since the famous boom (and notorious crash) of the early 1980s. Temporary workforce housing has become a fast business in the region, with multiple contractors building expansive "man camps" to house oil field workers.
Sara Baca didn't expect to move back in with her parents after she graduated last May. She has a full-time job at a retirement home, and hoped to save for her own house with her boyfriend. But they don't have oil field salaries, and so couldn't afford the market rate. "If I was a guy, I'd probably be out there too," Baca says about the oil fields. "They don't want women out there. The best I could do is an office job."
The Craigslist pages for cities like Odessa and Midland are bursting with desperate pleas for housing, many of them specifying that the prospective tenants are not oil field workers.
One Odessa woman's panicked ad explains that she's been living in a hotel with her husband and two young children. "We were supposed to check out at 11 but we cant cause we dont have anhywhere to go plz... im not asking for a hand out im asking for help renting something that is not 3000 to get into [sic]," she writes. "i have a job and my husband works but not in the oil field so we don't make 4000 every 2 weeks."
Kraft, the police chief, is less frantic about his situation. He hopes to find something better by the summer, and work is keeping him busy anyhow. "Anytime you get a booming population," he told the Avalanche-Journal, "crime seems to come with it."
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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