The People of Williston have had enough.

They’ve had enough of rising rent costs in the city and took to the streets to voice their displeasure.

For organizer Barbara Vondell, a lifetime Williston resident, the tipping point of her frustration was when an Arizona company purchased Schatz Mobile Home Park and immediately increased the lot rent to $750 a month.

“I heard about a little old lady sitting on her steps sobbing because she didn’t have any place to go,” Vondell said.

Her voice was flooded out Saturday as the sound of supporters’ horns blared from Million Dollar Way.

About a dozen supporters stood on the sidewalk adjacent to Harmon Park at one point. Others huddled in the tent, while others stopped by to sign the group’s petition.

The strength of the movement wasn’t in numbers during the early afternoon hours, but its reach has expanded across Williston.

The group’s Facebook page, People of Williston have had Enough, has grown to 504 members in just a matter of weeks.

Protestors estimated about 80 percent of their supporters are longtime Willistonites, those who have watched the quiet corner of northwest North Dakota turn into a national place of intrigue thanks to rapid oil development.

“We know what it’s like here,” Vondell said.

She said the situation at Schatz is a perfect example of how the new Williston works in terms of housing—an out-of-town company comes in, buys property and raises rent, forcing residents out.

In the 2011 biennium, the state legislature attempted to create more affordable housing, but the fund was used up.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, seeing how quickly the Housing Incentive Fund was capitalized on last biennium, proposed $50 million to go into the fund for the 2013-2015 biennium

The Legislature reduced the amount to $35 million and reports out of Bismarck said Friday that the fund has been used up just four months after being available.

“No matter what you’ve done, you can’t win,” said protestor Donna Lysaker.

A few protestors at Harmon Park expressed concerns over the federal government, which is likely to make cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food stamps to low-income people.

One protestor said he had to swallow his ego and get on food stamps for the first in his life because of rent costs in Williston.

Vondell referenced a study from a Minot firm, which said rent will continue to be high as supply catches up with demand, but things might not level off until the 2030s.

“Seventeen years, really?” Vondell asked, before suggesting the city should offer its own incentives to builders for affordable housing complexes. Even if you build three building with 25 units, that’s 75 apartments and at least 75 people.”

Vondell isn’t affected herself by the housing crunch but said “something just snapped” with the situation at Schatz.

Now Elm Estates, located on the corner of University Avenue and 26th Street, the park was purchased by a company out of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Longtime Willistonites make up a lot of the residents in the mobile home park and Vondell referenced a woman living there who has six children and his battling cancer.

Those cases are the biggest crimes, said protestor Rhonda Bartlette.

She said the people who help build Williston from the ground up several decades ago are becoming fewer and fewer because of rent costs and fixed incomes.

“We wouldn’t be here without them,” Vondell chipped in.

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