Lately I’ve encountered a few stories about the effects of unconventional natural gas development on housing and related indicators.
In a story from February 2012, NPR reports that the flood of new oil and gas workers is causing a housing crunch in some Pennsylvania communities, as locals get priced out of the rental market. Some at the bottom are finding themselves homeless.
Marcellus Natural Gas Development’s Effect on Housing in Pennsylvania, a report commissioned by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), looks at the effects the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry has had on housing across Pennsylvania. The authors of the report — Jonathan Williamson and Bonita Kolb — conducted interviews with more than 70 stakeholders including local elected officials, county and municipal planners, housing authority officials, social service agency representatives, landlords, developers, realtors, gas company representatives and new residents. The report focuses on on four broad issues: 1) rental housing, 2) owner-occupied housing, 3) housing affordability and availability, and 4) the capacity of the development community to meet housing demand.
More recently, the PHFA hosted a day-long housing summit at Lycoming College. The summit began with an update of the 2011 study. Since then, Williamson and Kolb have found that the impact of housing shortages are heaviest on those whose housing situation was already at greatest at risk prior to the gas industry growth.
Another article tells the story of the Riverdale Mobile Home Village, a 12-acre parcel along the Susquehanna River near Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. In February, Aqua PVR (a division of Aqua America) bought the trailer park for $550,000 — a price that “may have been a bargain” — at which point it sent eviction notices to the occupants of all 32 units. The company plans to tear down the park to build a water pumping facility. It has permission from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to withdraw three million gallons of water a day from the Susquehanna River. From there the water will be sold for use in hydraulic fracturing operations.