Nonprofit, CEI collaborate to design housing project

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 598 views 

A partnership between Habitat for Humanity of Benton County and Bentonville-based engineering firm CEI is expected to allow the nonprofit to scale its impact on affordable housing. Its reimagined business model will be embodied in an estimated $5 million development of single-family homes for the elderly, especially veterans.

“Our goal is to fund these houses all at once in this model neighborhood that could become a template for other organizations all over the country,” said Cindy Acree, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Benton County.

In September, CEI will start a competition among its more than 100 staff nationwide to design a community of small, wheelchair accessible homes for low-income, disabled, veterans and those at least 55 years old.

In Northwest Arkansas, 150,000 people cannot afford market-rate housing, and about 11% of households spend more than half of their income on housing, according to a news release. Meanwhile, the high cost of land and increased housing demand in the growing region have limited developers’ ability to build homes for those living below median income, the release shows. In Northwest Arkansas, median family income is $74,900 annually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Habitat for Humanity’s income requirements for a family of two range between $17,700 and $29,450.

Acree said the eligibility guidelines have yet to be set for residents of the new community. Its homes are expected to be at least 800 square feet and include two bedrooms, a bathroom, living area, kitchen and patio. A community gathering space will connect the homes.

The number of homes in the community will be determined when the engineering design work is completed in November. The second phase of the project includes working with an architect to design the homes and to gather funding partners. Also, the organization is seeking a land donation of 3 acres in Benton County for the project. With the land committed, Acree said construction could start as early as spring or summer 2022.

Since 2000, Habitat for Humanity of Benton County, an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, has built more than 82 homes in the county.