Partners is at the vanguard of the efforts to address attainable homeownership in Northwest Arkansas. Our strategy for addressing critical missing middle housing includes collaboration with leading community partners including the City of Fayetteville, Urban Land Institute, Habitat for Humanity and the Workforce Housing Center. Partners Interim Executive Director, Tenisha Gist, believes in modeling the way and leading through service. Partners team members engage in a variety of community boards and initiatives including sitting on the Workforce Housing Strategic Planning Committee, the Advisory Board for the ULI, and most recently a roundtable discussion with the United Way NWA Round Table.
Playing an active role has allowed Partners to keep homeownership in the discourse as well as weigh in on other regional housing needs. Patsy Warren-Cook, a Partners’ team member and Veteran, leads with excellence in this area. She volunteers on a number of community Boards including Lighthouse Solutions, LLC, Veterans Hospital Satellite Organization (VHSO), and the Women’s Health Program for the Veterans Administration.
We are now focused on adapting home purchasing assistance as we adjust to the new economic landscape. Partners is scaling up our efforts to support homeownership as well as exploring the development of multifamily rental assets. Inequity in homeownership opportunities has been a catalyst for our neophyte effort in the home purchase assistance space; the Homes at Willow Bend. The Homes at Willow Bend is currently under construction, and we are now focused on adapting the Shared Equity model to the new economic landscape; scaling up our efforts to support shared equity homeownership, exploring the development of multifamily rental assets, pursuing acquisition rehabilitation of existing housing, scattered sites and exploring advancements in rental equity programs.
Partners is leading the way in Community Outreach and Homebuyer Education. Tenisha Gist directs this component of the Organization. She has a deep commitment to the Northwest Arkansas community, is a sincere communicator, and adeptly leads Partners’ innovative opportunities through the Step-Up to Homeownership Program.
Partnership in this market is critical. We depend on our relationships with local lenders, contractors and builders, the University of Arkansas' Fay Jones School of Architecture, Crystal Bridges, the Cities of Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, Fayetteville, local housing advocates and our philanthropic contributors. New projects could include ground-up development, new construction or rehabilitation, scattered site, or partnering with existing new construction communities.
Partners for Better Housing spent several years assembling and acquiring the infill land necessary to develop Willow Bend. Community engagement and outreach to the surrounding neighbors helped shape the vision for the mixed-income, single-family residential neighborhood. The neighbors wanted the homes that "looked like theirs" -- that looked like they belonged in Arkansas. The neighbors also wanted to promote homeownership instead of rental units and connectivity -- they wanted the new homes to be a part of the entire community.
We piloted several innovative policies with the City of Fayetteville, including new techniques for stormwater management, the dedication of green space and park areas, and the creation of several cottage courts -- where 10-12 homes all face inward to a central green with parking in the rear. Wide sidewalks on each side of the road and generous front porches were incorporated into the design to encourage social interactions and getting to know your neighbors. The home plans were intentionally kept on the smaller size -- believing that households are made up of fewer individuals now than in years past. The landscaping has been crafted to be sustainable and low maintenance. The neighborhood has trail connectivity and a high walkability score; the location is close to the downtown square, the University of Arkansas, many major employers, and Walker Park making Willow Bend the ideal opportunity to grow and flourish in Fayetteville. Our mixed-income, shared-equity concept assists modest-income families in achieving the dream of homeownership in this one-of-a-kind new construction neighborhood.
In February 2022, we partnered with Habitat by selling them three lots at a discounted rate. They will build the same home plans we are building so that all homes in the neighborhood maintain the same cohesive appeal. All of their families will be members of our Property Owners Association, which requires all the homes in Willow Bend to be owner-occupied. Habitat and Partners for Better Housing celebrated the first build with a groundbreaking ceremony in April. A single mom with three young children has been chosen as the first homeowner to benefit from this partnership.