An oil boom in Cold Lake is putting pressure on military families, who work on the northeastern Alberta base.

"It's ridiculous," said Ashley Finnigan whose husband works on the base. "The military used to be rich people in Cold Lake before the oil came, now they're bottom of the barrel."

Finnigan's family returned recently to Cold Lake after two years in Ontario.

The price of homes, childcare and groceries is astronomical, she said.

The vacancy rate in the city is near one per cent and the military housing isn't pretty, said Finnigan.

"They're falling apart," she said. "They have eight layers of paint on the walls, they're not a nice place for what we are paying."

It's an opinion echoed by military ombudsman Pierre Daigle, who recently visited the base.

"Out of the 12-and-plus bases I visited around the country, what I found in Cold Lake is what disturbed me the most," he said.

The cost of a new home is climbing out of reach.

Deputy Mayor Bob Buckle estimates between 1,300 and 3,000 newcomers will arrive in the next year.

"Those type of numbers on a community of 14,000 can be pretty significant," he said. "You are starting to see the effect of the investment in the oil patch right now....and we're on ground zero."

About 100 new houses are built in the town every year, pushing the average price of a new home to $339,000.

"That's the scary part," Buckle said. "We'd feel a lot more comfortable if we had some apartments pulling permits for building to address some of the needs."

Finnigan said she's a lot more frugal now that's she's moved back.

"We thought the (Harmonized Sales Tax) in Ontario was bad, it's nothing in comparison to base line living in Cold Lake," she said.