NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Regional leaders said Wednesday during the State of Northwest Arkansas address that housing affordability in the area needs to be improved soon.
The address was a collaboration between the Northwest Arkansas Council and the University of Arkansas Center for Business and Economic Research. It highlighted the region’s growing economy as well as the need to increase housing options. President of the NWA Council, Nelson Peacock, said a lack of housing could impact the sense of community in the region.
“It’s that small town feel combined with the economic prosperity that makes this place so special and we can’t afford to lose either one,” Peacock said.
Mervin Jebaraj, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, said the housing supply hasn’t kept up with the demand over the past decade.
“We haven’t produced enough housing to keep up with who would want to live in these cities, close to the amenities and close to the trails,” Jebaraj said.
In Washington and Benton Counties, home prices are up about 16 percent over the last year and about 44 percent over the past 5 years. Fewer houses available has led to the higher home prices, Jebaraj said.
“The challenge is the lack of available land for sale to build housing on,” Jebaraj said.
Peacock said the NWA Council is working with cities and other partners to start addressing the issue of affordability.
“If we don’t begin to address the issue of housing affordability now were going to miss our window, miss the chance to change trajectory of Northwest Arkansas,” Jebaraj said.
The Housing Workforce Center, under the NWA Council, was established in March and will work to find a strategy to best meet the housing needs of the area. Peacock said the council is close to selecting an executive director to lead the center and help make that strategy.