NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA / KFTA) – Regional leaders said during the address on the state of Northwest Arkansas on Wednesday that housing affordability in the area needs to be improved quickly.
The address was a collaboration between the Northwest Arkansas Council and the University of Arkansas Center for Business and Economic Research. He stressed the region’s economic growth as well as the need to increase housing options. NWA Board Chairman Nelson Peacock said a lack of housing could impact the sense of community in the area.
“It’s that small town feel combined with economic prosperity that makes this place so special and we can’t afford to lose either,” Peacock said.
Mervin Jebaraj, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, said housing supply has not kept up with demand over the past decade.
“We have not produced enough housing to cater for those who would like to live in these cities, close to amenities and trails,” Jebaraj said.
In Washington and Benton counties, home prices have increased by about 16% in the past year and about 44% in the past 5 years. The decrease in the number of available housing has caused housing prices to rise, Jebaraj said.
“The challenge is the lack of land available for sale to build housing,” Jebaraj said.
Peacock said the NWA Council is working with cities and other partners to start addressing the issue of affordability.
“If we didn’t start addressing the issue of housing affordability now, we were going to miss our window, miss the chance to change the course of Northwest Arkansas,” Jebaraj said.
The Housing Workforce Center, under the aegis of the NWA Council, was established in March and will work to find a strategy to better meet the housing needs of the region. Peacock said the board is in the process of selecting an executive director to lead the center and help develop this strategy.