BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — After a year of development, the City of Bentonville has a new approach to combat its lack of affordable housing.

The Housing Affordability Work Group’s plan was approved by the city council in a seven-to-one vote.

The workgroup started by breaking down what “affordable” really means for people and said the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines it as having a rent or mortgage payment that costs 30% or less of the household’s income. City council and Housing Affordability Work Group member, Bill Burckart, said the reality for Bentonville is more than half of the population can not find housing that is affordable.

Burckart said they broke down the types of housing needed for each household’s income into three tiers. You can see the tier breakdown below:

Target Population Income Tiers and Illustrative Jobs (2019 U.S. Census Data)

Burckart said their plan, called Project ARROW, starts with changing city policies and ordinances that will break down barriers to affordable housing. Burckart listed some of the biggest barriers as build time, density, and the need to better define building zones for developers.

Right now, Burckart said construction projects are taking on average around three and a half years to complete, which he said is too long. He said many projects lose government funding after two years.

Project ARROW recommends policy or ordinance changes that’ll make the building process take less time.

When it comes to the density of housing projects, he said most developers are only building half of the units allowed in certain building zones. Burckart explains the more housing in a certain zone, the cheaper the monthly payment for multifamily and single-family housing will be.

“When we’re talking about affordable housing, we’re talking about you and me,” said Burckart. “We’re talking about everybody in your family. This isn’t something that we need to be afraid of. The more people that we can have part of our community the better off we are.”

The third tier of households has more barriers keeping them from affordable housing. This includes people bringing in around $20,000 to $40,000 a year, such as our firefighters and social workers.

Burckart said an affordable monthly payment for them is around $700 a month, which he said is nearly impossible for a private company to offer.

That’s where Project ARROW comes in. The Housing Affordability Work Group recommends pulling multiple organizations together to build housing.

“If you have government funds helping to pay for the project, and have a person that can help contribute the land, and other people that are working towards similar goals, you stack all that. Without everybody pulling together, everybody pulling the same direction, it’ll be hard to make that tier three,” said Burckart.

Burckart isn’t sure the rate of houses being built will catch up to the need or the growth of the city, but he said if 10% of the 500 multifamily permits and 490 single-family permits that were approved over the last year could start going up by this time next year, we would be in a much better place.

Project ARROW is laying out the steps to get Bentonville there. You can take a look at the Bentonville Housing Affordability Workgroup’s final report and recommendations here.