WILLISTON, N.D., July 27 (Reuters) - A subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp donated $5 million on Monday to a North Dakota government housing fund that subsidizes construction of low-cost apartments for teachers and emergency personnel in the state’s oil patch.
XTO Energy will receive a 100 percent tax write-off for its donation to the North Dakota Housing Incentive Fund, which will be used to construct more than 75 apartment units in Kildeer, Watford City and Williston, towns at the center of the state’s oil hub.
North Dakota has had a hard time attracting teachers, police officers and firefighters into such towns due to the high cost of housing. The fund seeks to help alleviate that.
“These are the communities our employees live in and we want to respect those communities,” Tim McIlwain, XTO’s head of operations, told a news conference.
The donation was the largest since the fund was established in 2011, eclipsing the $3 million Marathon Oil Corp donated in 2012.
The fund can accept up to $30 million in donations each year, according to a law passed by the state legislature. The fund, in turn, uses the money to subsidize apartment construction. The apartments must be rented at income-adjusted levels for 15 years.
While housing prices across North Dakota’s oil patch have come down recently, they still far eclipse prices before the state’s oil boom began in 2008. Prices have slid recently as the region’s economy has stabilized. A more-than 50 percent drop in oil prices in the past year has also taken some of the premium off housing.
A typical one-bedroom apartment in Williston runs about $1,700 per month, but at a facility built with money from the housing incentive fund the cost for a similar apartment costs about $800 per month.
“This housing fund is a key component of keeping things moving the way they should be moving in a fast-growing economy,” Governor Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, said at the press conference.
Exxon Mobil is the only oil company to have donated to the fund since January, state officials said. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Tom Brown)