Northwest Arkansas is the 22nd fastest-growing area in the U.S., and is consistently ranked as one of the best regions in which to reside in the United States. A critical issue the region now confronts is the availability of quality housing across much of the income spectrum. Yet housing in Northwest Arkansas, like much of the United States, has become bifurcated into two housing types: single-family homes and apartments.
Single-family homes in the U.S. now have a median size of 2,453 square feet and are often isolated from transportation options, making them unattainable for many families. The average size of apartments in the U.S. is less than 900 square feet, making them unlivable for many families.
Attainable housing addresses the needs of households making 60% to 120% of the median income. This demographic group typically doesn’t qualify for government subsidized housing, yet may still struggle to find affordable, available housing options in Northwest Arkansas.
Housing Northwest Arkansas presents a 2018 initiative, led by the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design and made possible by a grant from Walton Family Foundation, exploring optimal approaches to guide the growth of Northwest Arkansas and to maintain the quality of life distinguishing the region, through an in-depth exploration and design of mixed-use, mixed-income attainable housing.
The three-tiered Housing Northwest Arkansas initiative included a design studio focused on students, a regional symposium focused on the community, and a professional design competition. Each of these three components added to the in-depth exploration of national and regional housing issues of design, zoning, finance, city planning, community development, and community education and engagement. Throughout this exploration, the goals remained constant: educating Fay Jones School students, informing the Northwest Arkansas community, and building a better Northwest Arkansas.
The Design Studio engaged students in a collaborative, interdisciplinary study of housing issues, precedents and design proposals that incorporate the social, urban, and architectural agendas into a cohesive whole.
The Regional Symposium brought local and national experts together to address the current state of policy, design and development in a public forum.
The Professional Design Competition invited 25 national and international design practices to present mixed-income and attainable housing solutions for five sites in Bentonville, Arkansas, each seeking to bring their design expertise to bear upon the local challenges, culture, values, and vision of Northwest Arkansas.