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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Bentonville Schools tackle affordable housing for teachers, staff

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Friday, December 22, 2023   

The Bentonville School Board has taken a significant step to address Northwest Arkansas' pressing issue of affordable housing for teachers and staff members.

It has approved a proposal to donate ten acres of land to build housing, so educators can live in the community they serve.

Bentonville Schools Superintendent Debbie Jones said, in recruiting new teachers, the number one roadblock has been housing - which led them to partner with the nonprofit Excellerate Foundation on a housing development plan.

Jones said they'll have 20 homes as affordable rentals, and 20 more on an equity purchase path, so people can benefit from below-market rates without legal ownership.

"So we're trying to get them on an escalator to home ownership," said Jones. "So, we likely will set a five-year limit for our staff to live there. And they might move from the apartments into the shared-equity program and then walk away, likely, with a $50,000 downpayment for their first home."

She explained that the shared-equity plan eliminates financial burdens, frees up income for savings, and protects against market fluctuations.

Jones noted that a handful of opponents believe taxpayer-owned property should not be used for attainable housing.

But Jones said the school district stands alone in the state in deciding to build housing, adding the booming economy of Northwest Arkansas has fueled the significant demand for homes in the region.

"All of Northwest Arkansas has increased," said Jones. "In the beginning, the first half of 2023, the average home value rose to $470,000. In the past five years, the average home prices have increased 77%."

Because of the district's rapid growth, Jones pointed out that they frequently build new buildings, but lacked the funds for the housing initiative.

The housing will be built on land located near the high school. In January, they will meet with a legislative education committee to discuss the project.




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