The population in northwestern North Dakota could more than double by 2025 from its 2010 figures, according to a housing study from the Center for Social Research at North Dakota State University.

The September report showed an expected population of more than 73,000 in 2025 in Divide, Williams and McKenzie counties, with Williams and Divide seeing a doubling of people and McKenzie’s population tripling.

The breakdown for housing also predicted massive growth, with the housing supply across the tri-county area expected to grow by 35 percent by 2025 and by even more in Williston based on historical trends.

“The city of Williston is expected to show the fastest growth in the region at 82 percent by 2025,” the study said.

A model based on shifts in population and housing demand instead of historical trends showed a major jump in the same time period to a predicted 35,465 units in 2025 or 143 percent growth, according to the study. The city of Williston could jump up by close to 9,500 units.

The study also showed high median values of owner-occupied houses, with the Williams County median resting at close to $94,000 in 2010 and rent medians at the $515 monthly mark.

“Increased demand for housing will likely result in higher housing values and rates,” the study said.

Although Mayor Ward Koeser said he wasn’t familiar with the specifics of the study, he said collecting population and housing data is critical to local decisions – though predictions hold no guarantees.

“They believe this is what’s going to happen, and no one really knows,” he said.

Population numbers are particularly important for sewer, water, medical and school system planning, he said.

“There’s just a lot of speculation,” he said. “It makes it difficult to drive a stake in the sand and say this is what we’re going to be.”

Koeser said providing access to affordable housing also continues to be a major issue.

“It’s a critical need,” he said. “It’s certainly as critical as it has ever been. The price of land is so high in the Williston area; that is one thing that tends to drive up the price of lots.”

Koeser said government is searching for solutions, but the market will also eventually correct itself.

“We don’t want people just to build cheap houses that are poor quality and get the price down,” he said.

Another study from North Dakota State University, commissioned by the city and focusing on population locally, should also help inform local leaders when it is released within the next few weeks, he said.

“We’ll have the results of the different studies and take an average and plan accordingly,” he said.