What is the likely effect of oil price declines on the Grand Forks regional economy? This is a question I get quite often right now, and it is difficult to answer. While I investigate I thought we could look at the employment situation in Grand Forks county over the last several years. There are a couple of interesting things to consider. First, let’s consider the percent change, year-over-year, in Grand Forks county employment.
Pretty much anytime I give a talk or go on to KNOX radio I get questions about the pace of apartment building in Grand Forks. People believe fundamentals do not justify the extent to which construction currently occurs. I generally agree and think there are a few reasons behind it. This article from the Wall Street Journal seems to indicate the local circumstances may just be part of a larger national trend.
So I am jumping ahead a bit. There is much more to discuss as far as the implications of home price increases. I just read a fantastic article that correlates home price changes with changes in local fertility rates and so will look at Grand Forks in those terms too. However, the question was asked, by a friend of this website, why are we seeing all this about home prices?
As a topic, the economics of housing in North Dakota creates a significant amount of debate. This debate lacks consistency, ground rules, and facts. Most of the discussion takes place under the umbrella term of “affordable housing.” On numerous occasions I indicated the inadequacy of this term. The first problem is that it seems assumed the mere assertion of an “affordable housing” problem is adequate substitute for actual evidence of a problem. The second is a failure to recognize the differing nature of a potential problem when we are talking about a retired couple, a newly married young couple, or a family of five. An “affordable housing” problem for each of these three groups could look significantly different and require drastically different solutions. How much of a solution do we want? There are times it seems people want a 100% solution, by which I mean everyone that wants a house should have one in their price range. It is not that kind of world! Let’s make sure it is on the block they want too.
We reached that level finally. The straw man of a housing price issue in Grand Forks (and North Dakota for that matter)pushed us all into the merry old land of Oz. The article in the Grand Forks Herald (September 21, 2014 “A price problem?) is the latest effort in a litany of faulty economic reasoning.