Northwest Arkansas needs more affordable housing if it is to continue its growth trajectory to 1 million people by 2045. The Northwest Arkansas Council has made housing a priority late last year by establishing the Workforce Housing Center, led by Duke McLarty.
McLarty participated in a panel discussion at the Northwest Arkansas council meeting on Friday (February 25) to discuss some of the housing issues facing the region and the importance of affordable housing solutions to retain and retain workforce talent. McClarty said the area will need 80,000 new households by 2040 because the population is expected to double by 2045.
“We have to anticipate this housing crisis. We are well positioned to solve this housing crisis once and for all,” McClarty said.
McLarty said home is where families celebrate birthdays and mourn lost loved ones. He said it’s where homework and movie nights take place and where most of our authentic lives take place. He said the area lacked enough affordable single-family homes and multi-family housing and his job was to find ways to close the gaps so that commute times are reduced and quality of life is improved for those who have need affordable housing.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING IDEAS
Monique Pierre, CEO of Partnership For Better Housing in Fayetteville and a panelist, said there is a project in Fayetteville that is a shared partnership model/pay it forward. The organization works with partners to help families afford housing with a capital investment that lowers the cost. She said the buyer agrees to pay that equity to the next buyer who purchased their home during the sale. This model allows families to live in neighborhoods they could not otherwise afford.
Tina Castro, co-founder of Avivar Capital, also took part in the discussion. His firm works with communities to establish financing options that support affordable housing initiatives. Based in Los Angeles, Castro said the Greater Cincinnati Foundation made an investment of $1 million and partnered with a community development financial institution to help grow the fund, which is now valued at $13 million. dollars. She said the Foundation is currently funding its first 600 multifamily units in the city for low-income families. Castro said there are many ways communities can work together to help address affordable housing issues, and his company is working with them to advance their efforts.
Todd Simmons, CEO of Siloam Springs-based Simmons Foods, said recruiting and retaining the talent needed to run businesses is crucial for employers of all sizes.
“We have leaned where we can to help with things like ensuring minimum occupancy for new apartment developments for a period of time. In the past, we had a ‘Field of Dreams’ mentality about expansion and it has become important for us to play a bigger role in ensuring that the workforce we need has an affordable housing option,” he said.
Tony Aquila, president and CEO of Canoo Inc., also spoke at the meeting about his plans to locate his business in northwest Arkansas. He said the main production plant is being built in Pryor, Okla., and that’s where it will manufacture the Canoo electric cars. Production is expected to begin by the end of this year.
Aquila said he chose to move his business from California to the region because of Arkansas’ visionary and entrepreneurial roots and the strength, resilience and support of the Cherokee Nation in eastern Illinois. Oklahoma. He said the entire vehicle was reconfigured to be lighter with just 70 moving parts weighing a total of 200 pounds. He said Canoo breaks all the rules and builds durable and efficient vehicles for people.
Canoo also plans a manufacturing operation in a 260,000 square foot building at 4700 SW Regional Airport Boulevard in Bentonville. He said families who choose electric vehicles will see $400 more in their pockets each year due to fuel and maintenance savings.
Canoo is targeting about $100 million in vehicle orders with states and universities where the company locates facilities. Canoo has approximately 800 employees with offices in California, Michigan, Minnesota and Texas. The company says its unique design offers the interior space of a large SUV above the footprint of a compact car.
The Northwest Arkansas Council also celebrated 10 years of Crystal Bridges with a report from Director Rod Bigelow who said the museum had 6 million visitors in the first 10 years and 500,000 people had used the trails around the museum campus.