SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Looking ahead in 2023, an economist at the University of Arkansas said the housing market in Northwest Arkansas tightens anytime a corporation brings in a large number of new jobs.

In October, Tyson Foods announced the relocation of its corporate employees to Springdale.

Researcher economist for the University of Arkansas, Jeff Cooperstein, said he expects housing costs to remain where they are for the beginning of the year. Cooperstein said this is different than other growing metros where housing is starting to get less expensive.

Although, with a constant flow of people coming into the area, including the Tyson Foods employees, he said housing will have to continue going up for prices to remain stable.

In Springdale, Cooperstein said there are plans to add more housing to the downtown area and west side of the city. Even with the new developments, Cooperstein said housing isn’t exceeding the area’s demand. 

“Demand is remaining strong as people are still coming here. Even with the Tyson stories about how all those 1,000 people are not going to leave Chicago or Sioux Falls, but those jobs are going to come here,” said Cooperstein.

Executive Director of the Northwest Arkansas Workforce Housing Center, Duke McLarty, said it should be celebrated when companies are wanting to bring high-paying jobs to the area, but says NWA needs a long-term housing plan in order to keep up.

“The reality is an announcement of corporate relocation, such as that, is going to happen another 500 or so times over the next 20 years,” said McLarty.

NWAWHC said it’s going to start working with cities to make housing more available in our area.

McLarty said they’ll start with efforts to change building codes, policies, and zoning regulations in cities around the region. He said these regulations in many of the area’s larger cities were put in place around 50 years ago and need to be updated. He said this is pushing development outward since it is easier and less expensive to build in smaller cities.

McLarty said although it may be less expensive to buy a home in smaller communities, one has to think about how all the other costs will add up. 

“When our workforce is committed to these long commutes, it’s less time they have with their family, it’s less time they have to do what they want to away from work, it’s higher transportation costs,” said McLarty.

Cooperstein said Springdale and Rogers are two of the most recent cities to address master development plans for their community and they’re allowing denser development in more areas. He said when there’s a plan to add housing inside growing cities, like in Downtown Springdale, it allows for denser development, which Cooperstein said can make housing less unaffordable and keep prices under control.

Cooperstein said the number of houses being sold has dropped quite a bit, but prices aren’t coming down, since he said NWA is a desirable place to live. He said to keep housing prices under control the area has to build more.

Cooperstein wants home buyers to be cautious right now.

“Make sure that you’re buying something that’s affordable for you. The problem we had in 2008 and 2009, people were buying things that really weren’t affordable to themselves. They just anticipated prices were going to keep going up. ‘I’m going to be able to refinance next year, get better terms, pull equity, and so it’ll be affordable.’ You can’t make that assumption right now,” he said.

Cooperstein doesn’t think we can assume that home prices are going to increase the way they have in the last few years. Instead, he thinks there’s a very strong chance that they’re going to stay pretty flat.