Monday, January 17, 2011

Housing Crisis in the Drilling Fields

The influx of drilling rigs and gas field workers in the Pennsylvania’s northern tier has led to an unanticipated housing crisis. At least that’s what James McRath, executive director for Bradford and Tioga County Housing Authority says.

“The continued influx of workers from Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas places increased demand on the already limited availability of local housing,” he told the PA Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee last September.  Middle class and lower income families, McRath says, are being squeezed out of the market as rents have tripled – sometimes quadrupled – what they were before the gas rush.

Two bedroom apartments that rented for $400/month just a few months ago now cost $1200/month. A quick check of classified ads in Towanda area newspapers show one bedroom apartments going for $800/month, a one-and-a-half bedroom for $1250 and a 3-bedroom apartment for $2250. The later includes utilities and internet.

The problem: working class families can’t compete with the money out-of-state gas workers bring to the housing market. Landlords are eager to cash in on the boom, raising rents and even evicting long-time tenants. And that’s leaving some folks out on the streets.

The regional homeless rate has increased 20 percent over the last year, said James Meehan. He’s the Regional Housing Coordinator for Futures Community Support Services serving Bradford, Lycoming, Susquehanna, Sullivan, Tioga and Wyoming counties.

Instead of heading home after work, many people are bunking with relatives, renting substandard housing, getting a second job to pay rent, or crowding four people into one bedroom apartments. Some are living in campers or sleeping in cars.

The lack of housing is especially tough on children, and Bradford County Child Services reported a ten percent increase in placement of children in foster homes from November 2009 to September 2010.

This isn’t because the families are abusive or neglectful, Meehan says. “They’re victims of the housing market.”

One solution is to build more housing for gas field workers – and Chesapeake has done that. They recently completed worker dormitories, their “man-camp” near Athens, PA.

But it’s not just gas field workers who compete for local rentals – once business owners see an increase in demand for their goods or services, they try to relocate in Marcellus areas, too.


  1. I was a pipeline worker in Bradford Cty for two mths. I have extreme empathy for the locals combating the housing crisis. I had to share a 1960's mobile home with 3 others renting for $1500 a mth! Our housing expenses are not paid for by the company. We still have expenses back home to pay along with temporary housing. Sure, we make good money while working, but, the job doesn't usually last for more than 6 mths. So putting money into savings to pay the bills when the work is over is how we live. You never know when/where the next job is. Your local landlords should be ashamed of themselves. I worked in SD and NE where the towns were never so happy to see us. Both towns threw our company a big THANK YOU picnic for bringing them the revenue we brought them..and the locals were very' extended us coupons, goody bags, and discount passes to use. We were not taken grossly advantage of by landlords. I am well aware of the drilling controversy going on in your area...just don't take it out on the workers who are trying to make a living there and back home.

  2. I totally agree that since the gas field works have pulled up left behind family, friends and other housing expenses to relocate to an unknown area in hope of employment just like any other person in the work field they should not have to suffer due to greedy housing rentals.
    These men have left families with wife's and children to help this state come back from an economic crunch. Thus being set apart as if they are illegals and not citizens of this United States.
    You should all be ashamed of yourself's for such greed, and on top of that putting your own locals in such hardship due to greed which will come back to bite you one day.
    My husband has never been so rudely disrespected working in this field and we have never felt like outsiders.
    Shame on you and shame on your leaders for allowing this.

    Wife of a hard working gas field employ.