BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Bentonville School Board voted 5-1 to approve a plan to donate 5 acres of land so that Excellarate Foundation can build 100 attainable housing units.
The units will sit behind Bentonville High School and J Street.
“I think it will be very beneficial for our district, our teachers, our students and even the community,” said Kelly Carlson, president of the Bentonville School Board.
He says there will be 40 single family homes for teachers.
“I worry about teachers that are not already here, but are having to live in other communities and then drive in. So this will give them an opportunity to live, work and play and be part of the community that they live in on a day-to-day basis,” Carlson said.
He says the district missed out on some teachers in the last year because they were not having to find affordable housing.
“The value is in how we can support our teachers that are looking for a community to live in and work in. And right now, we’re finding that our teachers are struggling to do that,” Carlson said.
They decided to pull out of their contracts.
With the housing, teachers will have the option to live there and lease or they can enter into an equity share program which will allow them to begin building equity for their first down payment for their first home according to Carlson.
The other 60 units are traditional garden-style apartment homes.
These units are traditional income tax supported.
Anyone who meets the requirements that is determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Public Housing Program will be able to live there.
That includes nurses, policemen, city officials, city employees, nurses, and etc.
Jeff Webster, president and CEO of Excellerate Foundation, says this project allows people to have the positives of homeownership without the cost and impediments.
“We technically own it. There’s no closing costs. There’s no down payment. There’s no principal mortgage insurance. There’s no taxes for them to pay. The insurance that they pay is only for their belongings on the inside,” Webster said.
He says the Excellerate Foundation now has to fill out an application in order to access state and federal funds for the project.
“You apply on that first Monday of March. It’s a competitive bid process that we feel very strongly about given the location that the project’s at,” Webster said.
Webster says the goal is for people to stay no longer than five years and while they are there, they can save their money.
“This is going to help those teachers find the ability to begin saving and starting that equity cycle sooner rather than later, giving them the opportunity to own their first home sooner rather than later,” Carlson said.
Webster says he is excited to help employees at Bentonville schools and others within the school district.
“As a foundation, we’re here to help people with different challenges, and one of our strategic priorities is housing,” Webster said.
Webster says the foundation should be done building all 100 units by Aug. 2026.
Carlson says the district is the first in the region to create attainable housing for teachers and hopes this will encourage other districts and states to duplicate the idea.
“The exciting thing is that this can grow to something more depending on the level of success it has because it could be more projects for teachers and other districts like this. It could be projects like this for veterans,” Carlson said.
He also says they are now in the process of determining what makes a teacher qualified to live in one of the units, how long they can live there, and how they pay a lease payment versus how they partake in the equity share program.