Boomtown Housing Shortage: Police Chief Forced To Live in RV

Bernie Kraft police chiefThousands of people have flocked to West Texas in the past two years in the hope of riding its oil boom. Rents in the area have skyrocketed, almost every apartment has a waiting list, and some end up living in motels for months on end. But it's not just oil field workers who are feeling the squeeze for shelter. The police chief of one city has been living in a trailer for almost five months.

"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.

More:Oil Boomtowns: Plenty Of Jobs, But No Place To Live

While workers from out of state might expect less than ideal living conditions as part of the package, other residents are confused and angry that they've been priced out of their hometowns.

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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