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Hundreds of housing projects announced or under construction in NWA

Anna Pope
Big Emma will be in downtown Springdale.

Steve Clark has a quick method for getting a ballpark number of housing units the City of Fayetteville might need according to population projections.

"So, if we grow four people a day, somebody new every six hours, and you assume half of those people are adults are gonna need housing," Clark said. "You've got some children in that group, then you literally can take 365 and multiply it by two and that's 730, I believe it is. So, that's how many new units you would need on an annual basis."

Clark, the president and chief executive officer of the Fayetteville City Chamber of Commerce, said building 730 new units a year to feed the demand for housing is not foolproof.

The city welcomes thousands of students every fall to the UofA and there are different types of housing people desire. He said when doing this math problem, it’s important to remember the city is part of a region that works in a regional approach to housing.

"You know, we could build 750 or a thousand new homes a year for a long time, and we probably wouldn't get anywhere close to meeting all of our needs or have to do that on a regular basis literally going forward for the next 15 years," Clark said.

Like many places in the U.S., available housing is limited, and prices are rising in the region. In 2022, rental prices had a 14% increase, according to the Northwest Arkansas Workforce Housing Center.

Recently, regional cities announced multiple housing projects. For instance, projects like the multi-family 77-unit apartment complex Big Emma.

At the building's site, red structural dirt and rock are scattered across the section at the busy corner of Park and Emma Avenue in Springdale.

This is one of many housing projects in Springdale. Other projects include the Via Emma, an apartment complex expected to add 131 units to the city. Also in July, the Springdale Planning Commission approved four subdivisions expecting to result in about 600 single-family homes.

"I think we're going to see over the course of the next two to five years is creativity in how we can chip away at the problem," Bill Rogers, the president and CEO of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, said. "I don't think there's any silver bullet."

Rogers said Springdale is expected to be the largest city in the region. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, its population is about 87,000 people and he said that number is supposed to reach around 154,000 people in 22 years.

"Well, I don't have the ability to translate that into the number of homes and multi-family off the top of my head, but it's a whole lot more than we have today," Rogers said.

Rogers said the city does not have only one area of need when considering multi-family or single-family units, it just needs housing.

He said in Springdale development has largely been focused in areas where there is existing infrastructure like water and sewer lines, but also, grocery stores nearby and a connection to services like a bus system.

"Infrastructure is always a key component of development and, you know, who's paying for it, when can you afford to, to build that out, uh, how far in advance of the development demand is there," Rogers said. "But, you know, if we could fast forward 50 years from now, we would be surprised. The housing and the development that's out toward Beaver Lake to the East."

Further south in Fort Smith, a 180-unit new apartment complex broke ground earlier this year.

Up north, Newell Development announced three housing projects with an expected price tag of $100 million this past week. They are expected to generate about 500 residential units in two years.

"Five years ago, not many people would talk about having a housing unit of space that's 20-by-20," Clark said. "They'd say, ‘Well, it's gotta be a little bigger than that,’ You know? ‘We've gotta have that and we gotta…’ And so, it's the changing nature of society and life. That really is what makes it fun. But also, what keeps you up at night.

“Because when you don't have shelter, then you don't have one of the essentials of life, OK? And you have to find shelter and we have to meet those needs 'cause that is an essential of life," Clark said.

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Anna Pope is KUAF's growth impact reporter and a Report for America corps member