Drilling Not Good for All

The gas and oil drilling boom in our area has been a curse, not a blessing, for some low-income families. Hundreds of workers in the industry need places to stay and are willing to pay top dollar for rental apartments and houses.

Housing for low-income West Virginians was a key topic during an interim meeting of state legislators here in Wheeling on Wednesday. The Legislature’s Select Committee on Children and Other Issues spent some time hearing testimony on housing challenges that affect poor or moderate-income families.

It can cost $1,200 a month or more to rent a two-bedroom apartment in the local area, lawmakers were told by Lisa Badia, executive director of the Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless. And while the drilling boom has been good for many Northern Panhandle residents, it has put those with low incomes at a disadvantage. They “cannot afford what the housing market is dictating,” she said.

Some local residents “are on the street because they don’t have affordable housing for their families,” added Marlene Midget, executive director of Northern Panhandle Head Start.

It is a problem. We have been contacted during the past year by people who, once able to afford the rent on modest apartments, no longer can find decent accommodations that fit their budgets.

But it is one thing to recognize the challenge – and quite another to know what to do about it. We confess we have heard no practical strategies.

Surely there is some way to help, however. Legislators should look into the matter, perhaps checking with officials in other regions of the country where needs for temporary housing have put local residents at a disadvantage. Surely something can be done to help low-income families who are coping with new struggles because of a boom that is helping many of their neighbors.