New Study May Mean Improvements for Low Income Housing in Fayetteville

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The University of Arkansas Community Design Center was awarded a $25,000 grant and it’s all going towards developing a livability improvement plan for people living at Willow Heights. 

“The property at Willow Heights — no one denies –is in serious need of repair, demolition, what have you. It’s very old.” said Mike Emery, the Chairman of the Fayetteville Housing Authority Board.

Willow Heights — one of Fayetteville’s low income housing developments — has been around for about 40 years. Due to deteriorating living conditions, the housing authority is planning to move tenants to another housing complex.

“While this has certain benefits the downside is that it removes residents from walkable access to downtown services to employment centers to grocery stores more importantly.” said Stephen Luoni, the Director of the U of A Community Design Center.

Thanks to the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, residents may not have to move after all. On Thursday, the U of A Community Design Center presented a proposal to develop a plan that would improve living conditions.

“There’s now an effort to at least explore the option of maintaining the projects there so low income residents can have walkable access to downtown.” said Luoni.

Along with preserving the site, Luoni said they will be exploring other options as well. 

“We would look at the site itself as a place for social gathering, make it for easier access to handicap also… and add market rate units to the housing projects to make it a mixed use community.”

According to Luoni, the Design Center will begin developing the plan in March and will be done by the end of April.

“We’ll come up with scenario plans that explore a range of options and then by the end of April narrow it down to three scenarios and we’ll present those three scenarios to the housing authority.” said Luoni. 

Mike Emery — with the Fayetteville Housing Authority — said while making the property more “livable” would be great, it’s not guaranteed they’ll have the money or resources to make the plans come to life. 

“We don’t have a set goal in mind it’s just kind of seeing what information comes out of it and then doing everything we can with that from there to decide where to move forward.” Emery said. 

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