Fayetteville nonprofit Partners for Better Housing announced Tuesday (May 11) a $2 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation. The funds will help create mixed-income developments, enhance a shared equity homeownership program and boost the nonprofit’s efforts to serve the area’s workers and their families.
The grant will be paid to the nonprofit over three years and allow it to “hire several full-time staff, some consultants to pursue strategic planning and explore policy issues, staff to help with our community outreach and stewardship of our Pay It Forward program,” said Tiffany Hudson, executive director for Partners for Better Housing. The Pay It Forward program will allow income-qualified buyers to receive a $35,000 discount on a home in the $22 million Willow Bend development.
“Northwest Arkansas residents need access to quality, attainable housing in close proximity to employment centers, transportation options and quality of life amenities,” Hudson said. “By working with all stakeholders and bringing creative financing options to the table, we hope to spur additional mixed-income neighborhoods and meet the growing demand for affordable housing in our region.”
The new grant will allow the nonprofit to expand its housing efforts regionally, according to a news release. It plans to build additional mixed-income communities with diverse housing units, such as townhomes, cottages and multi-unit buildings, and single-family homes of varying square footage. It will expand its Pay It Forward program, the state’s first shared-equity homeownership program. It’s focused on low- and moderate-income households and provides them with one-time down-payment assistance grants.
In 2017, the nonprofit partnered with the city of Fayetteville to start its first mixed-income neighborhood, Willow Bend. It was the first area development to be backed by a $1 million cost-share agreement with the city. The money will be used to reduce home prices for qualified buyers. In early 2020, the organization hired Hudson, its first employee, with a $50,000 donation from IberiaBank, which through a merger will transition Arkansas offices to First Horizon later this year.
According to a 2019 study, housing is increasingly inaccessible to many Northwest Arkansas residents. More than 80,000 families are expected to move to the four largest cities in the area by 2040, requiring an additional 2,900 units annually. However, the region built only 1,400 new units per year from 2010 to 2016. A recent Skyline Report shows the average cost to purchase a home rose by 11% last year to $293,403 in Benton County and $268,987 in Washington County. Recently, Springdale-based economic development organization Northwest Arkansas Council launched a workforce housing center to provide collaboration among partners in the region, including Partners for Better Housing, and address housing needs and priorities.