By KATE GALBRAITH July 12, 2012
MIDLAND, Tex. — In the desolate outskirts of this thriving West Texas oil town, two men recently showed off a new 400-square-foot wood cabin they hope to rent out for $1,500 a month. A planned expansion includes spaces for 30 recreational vehicles and nine additional cabins — and maybe more.
“This morning, the boss man was asking if we could duplicate this across the fence,” said Danny Wallace, who works for Jones Brothers Dirt & Paving Contractors, the company developing the site.
Housing as expensive as New York City’s has become the norm in Midland, amid an oil boom that is rapidly reshaping the area. With oil prices hovering above $80 a barrel, more than double their level of early 2009, workers have flocked here from elsewhere in Texas and the nation, lured by jobs working on rigs or driving trucks. But the resulting housing shortages, traffic and strain on schools has some residents shaking their heads.
“I was born and raised here in Midland, and it’s never been like this,” Kenney DeLaGarza, a building inspector for the city, said as he stood on a gravel road beside a patch of land covered with trailers. Fields where his parents once took him to shoot fireworks, he said, have turned into housing developments — sometimes with pump jacks in the backdrop.
Booms — and busts — have been a way of life here since oil began flowing from Permian Basin wells in the 1920s. Midland is where George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush made their names in oil. The mayor, Wes Perry, is also an oilman, and he sometimes takes calls about city matters from his EGL Resources office.
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