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How the Marcellus Shale Drilling is Affecting Housing in Beaver County

Melody Logoyda, data collections consultant for the Alliance for Consumer Protection (ACP) of Beaver County, PA shares insights on how Marcellus Shale is impacting the Beaver County region.

The Marcellus Shale industry is exploding across the region. It is something to be thankful for. It has the potential to create hundreds of job opportunities just in Beaver County alone and impact our businesses, housing markets and other local industries. It is an answer to prayer for our communities that have suffered decline for so many years.

Working at The Cornerstone Homeless Support Center in Beaver Falls has shown me the face of homelessness in Beaver County. It comes in all ages, family sizes and colors. It can be blatant, like finding a person sleeping under a bridge, or hidden when a family or individual has to move from house to house every couple of nights. It is a problem that many agencies in the county are trying to address.

So how could Marcellus Shale possibly affect our low-income, homeless population? Well, consider the fact that Beaver County already struggles to house homeless households with single adults, the most difficult to place. The Housing Authority of Beaver County already has a two year waiting list average for their newly remodeled Stephen Phillips housing site in Monaca. If, or when, Shell begins construction on their new cracker plant in Potter Twp., many of the private rental properties may end up housing some of the thousands of contractors that Shell will need. That will crowd out our low income population even more. (Washington County, PA is already experiencing this impact in their rental market.) Local township trustees are hard at work trying to create solutions to the four-year temporary housing issue that construction will bring.

 Shelters are housing some people for longer periods of time limiting availability, especially during this last winter. Crossroads Men’s Shelter in Beaver Falls is now open year-round to provide a much needed service. Moderately priced motels that agencies use to house fire victims already experienced limited availa- bility during the construction of the Baden WalMart, depleting funds faster.

On the homeowner side of housing, the market in the Marcellus Shale region is becoming atypical of the national market. Some sellers with even an acre or less of land are retaining their oil and gas mineral rights. Those with larger tracts of land may be willing to sell their OGMs with their property but are increasing the listing prices, trying to figure what those rights are worth into the sale. Unless it is written down in a contract from a mineral extraction company, those numbers are rather ambiguous and the value is pure speculation. There is no guarantee that drilling will even happen. This should be considered a negotiable point for buyers. Local real estate companies should be able to give you the names of several attorneys who specialize in the OGM field if you have any questions.

Some of the best advice I picked up at one of the town meetings held by the Franklin Center of Beaver County at the Broadcast Street Café in Aliquippa was that we need to concentrate on local workforce development. Training our young people for petrochemical engineering and other energy related curriculum is already a high priority with some of our local colleges like the Community College of Beaver County. Having a capable and diverse workforce ready for this industry would limit outsourcing and hopefully increase our tax base for struggling townships. The potential for growth is there, but it comes with costs. Being prepared, equipped and flexible to adaptation is a big part of the equation for the county to thrive again.

Melody Logoyda is a Data Collection Consultant for ACP, The Cornerstone and a Realtor® for Northwood Realty Services, Beaver office.

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