Apr 10, 2024 - News

How updating rules could help housing affordability in Northwest Arkansas

Illustration of a key in a lock featuring a keyring with a dollar sign

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The area's housing and zoning rules aren't best accommodating the people who live here and what they can afford, architect Alli Thurmond Quinlan said at Tuesday's meeting of the Northwest Arkansas Council.

The big picture: Most NWA housing caters to a minority demographic — families with children.

  • But 68% of NWA households have no children, 27% are one person living alone, 26% are nuclear families with children, and 6% are single-parent households.
  • Yet, 75% of incorporated land in NWA is zoned for single-family homes. That, combined with low density, means the cost of maintaining services and infrastructure for a given area falls on relatively few people.

What they're saying: Changing rules to allow a variety of housing like duplexes, detached accessory dwelling units and single-family homes on smaller plots of land can drive down costs, Quinlan said.

By the numbers: In a recent survey by the council, affordable housing was by far least likely to be rated good or excellent when compared to other quality of life aspects.

  • Just 17% of respondents gave affordable housing a good or excellent rating, compared to 95% for outdoor recreation, 73% for activities and nightlife, and 75% for jobs.

Zoom out: The nonprofit council consists of leaders from the region's largest businesses and community organizations. It focuses on improving quality of life in NWA — from workforce development to infrastructure to health care.

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