Regional data demonstrates that "help pay for housing" is far and away the number one requested resource for people in Northwest Arkansas. Specific to Bentonville, it is a significant number of its workforce that struggles to find affordable housing within the city.
The housing crisis is decades old, stemming from the region’s explosive growth that began in the 1990s. But more recent developments— such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy, interest rates being raised repeatedly by the Federal Reserve to curb inflation, and major employers like Walmart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt recruiting ever more new employees to the region or relocating existing ones to their home offices—have elevated the problem to historic heights. Recent figures show that Fayetteville, AR (and, by extension, the rest of the region) is the most competitive small rental market in the United States and that home prices in Northwest Arkansas are climbing faster than anywhere else in the country.
Tasked with developing a plan to address this crisis, the Bentonville Affordable Housing Workgroup— comprising the official and unofficial membership of City staff, City Council members, local developers, City Planning commissioners, social service providers, philanthropy, and Bentonville residents—set an aggressive timeline for completion, due to the urgency of the need.
Excellerate President/CEO, Jeff Webster, chaired this Workgroup.
Over the course of 12 months, the workgroup achieved its three primary goals:
- Bring clarity to what is really meant by "affordable housing".
- Build an extensive data set to both understand the current housing landscape and unlock issues that need to be addressed. This data includes best practices from across the nation that the City can "adopt and adapt" to the unique characteristics of Bentonville.
- Develop a city-driven process - Project ARROW- with active management that will achieve fast action, motivating developers to build the housing that is needed, generating wins for the City, businesses, the developers, and, most importantly, the citizens.
ABOUT PROJECT ARROW
Project ARROW is a targeted approach to catalyze an increased supply and accessibility of affordable single-family and multi-family developments within Bentonville. It includes a tiered system for developers that require them to provide more and more benefit to residents as the developer incentives increase—such as density bonuses, specialized zoning, and expedited approval processes. Project ARROW also has straightforward compliance measures and concrete success metrics so that the City can ensure that it is meeting its affordable housing goals.
The recommendations and implementation guidance provided Bentonville the chance to take this leadership further through tangible, innovative solutions to this problem. The promise of the Project ARROW approach is illustrated by the rising interest from the other major cities in the region in using these tactics in their own communities, due to the increasing demand from their own residents and the high return on investment that will result.
Project ARROW will provide a winning solution for local businesses, developers, the City, and, most importantly, for the people of Bentonville.
You can read the full report and implementation guide HERE.