OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Business advocates from rural Oklahoma told state lawmakers Tuesday that a lack of affordable housing for the influx of energy and agricultural workers to their regions is stalling economic growth.
From Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle to Ponca City in the north of the state, significant permanent population growth and workforce housing demands are exceeding the housing supply, said Dr. Kay Decker, a professor of sociology and chair of the Department of Social Sciences at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva.
"There is an acute problem," Decker said during a legislative study on rural housing needs.
Vicki Ayers-McCune, the executive director of the Panhandle Regional Economic Development Coalition, said expansion of wind energy facilities in the far western Panhandle is expected to create hundreds of wind technician and related permanent jobs that will put new pressure on the region's supply of single-family homes and rental units.
"We're in a huge desperate need," Ayers-McCune said. "We're still way behind on housing."
Kay Stinson, vice president of human resources at Seaboard Foods, a pork producer and processor that is Guymon's largest employer, said housing for the plant's 3,300 workers is one of the company's biggest concerns. At least 550 Seaboard employees already commute from communities in Kansas or Texas because they can't find suitable housing in Oklahoma.
"The High Plains is a hopping place right now. Housing is an issue," Stinson said.
"We are sending payroll out of state," Decker said.
Rep. Mike Jackson, who requested the legislative study, told lawmakers he is looking for ways to encourage builders to construct affordable housing in rural Oklahoma.