Nov 17, 2023 - News

Land donation OK'd for Bentonville teacher housing

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Bentonville school board on Tuesday approved a proposal to donate nearly 9 acres of its land to build affordable housing for teachers and staff, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Why it matters: NWA's high cost of housing makes it challenging for lower- and middle-range wage earners, like many teachers, to afford living in the area.

Zoom out: School districts across the country are getting into the homebuilding industry. In 2022 a starting teacher salary could not cover a one-bedroom rental in 15 of 69 U.S. cities.

Zoom in: Even though the LEARNS Act sets the minimum annual salary for Arkansas teachers at $50,000, the average selling price for a home in Benton County was more than $400,000 in June, up 77% from the middle of 2018 according to the Arvest Skyline Report.

  • Average rent prices were up 10.6% to $952 from $860 a year earlier.

Flashback: Bentonville superintendent Debbie Jones made the proposal after three out-of-area teachers hired in 2022 had to resign before the school year started because they couldn't find housing in their price range.

Details: The development would be divided into three sections, according to the Democrat-Gazette:

  1. 50-60 multifamily housing units with two and three bedrooms. Due to federal and state funding, these units can't be designated exclusively for school employees.
  2. 20 one- and two-bedroom single-family rental units. Rental rates are expected to run between $750 and $1,000.
  3. 20 single-family one- and two-bedroom houses priced between $180,000 to $200,000.

What's next: The school board and Excellerate still need to finalize legal agreements and guidelines for the development.


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