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Little Rock officials break ground on new affordable housing units

Daniel Breen
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. (center) joins U.S. Rep. French Hill, Ward 1 City Director Virgil Miller and other officials in breaking ground on three new affordable housing units on Charles Bussey Avenue on Wednesday.

Three more units of affordable housing will soon be available to low-to-moderate income Little Rock residents.

Officials with the city Housing and Neighborhood Programs Department, the Metropolitan Housing Alliance and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spoke on Wednesday at the site on Charles Bussey Avenue in Little Rock on which three single-family homes will be built.

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. says it’s part of the city’s overall plan to build 100 new units of affordable housing within the next three years.

“While we’re growing forward, we have to understand that we cannot price out our residents. We have to understand that we have to provide affordable housing for all of our residents so they can live and grow right here in this city, and that’s what it takes to have true, targeted community development,” Scott said.

Scott says the city has already purchased 25 lots for new housing, 14 of which have already been developed. Officials with the Metropolitan Housing Alliance say they hope to break ground on 25 new units along Little Rock’s 12th Street corridor within the next few months.

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, credited the partnership between state and federal agencies for the success of the city’s affordable housing programs.

“There’s no state in the union that has a better first-time homebuyer assistance fund than Arkansas does. Every year we have sufficient funds, more than are even applied for, for families that can make the payment, but don’t have the down payment. And so we remain committed to that teamwork,” Hill said.

Candace Valenzuela, Region VI Administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, says a lack of affordable housing isn’t unique to Little Rock.

“In Arkansas we have a deficit of 50,000 homes. That means 50,000 individuals or families are unable to afford a place to call their own, and this is a crisis that we are facing as an entire nation,” Valenzuela said. “In the country, we’re lacking 7 million affordable homes for families. This crisis is felt in every corner of our country right now, and we have no choice but to act.”

Mayor Scott credited the city’s efforts to raise its down payment assistance for low-to-moderate income homebuyers to $6,000 as helping to close racial wealth gaps in the city. He said the city has waived close to $1 million in water, sewer and permitting fees for new development south of Interstate 630 and east of Interstate 30 since August of 2020.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.