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Strategic planners talk about local real estate prices
Real estate prices, the availability of housing and a possible means of keeping more elderly residents in Arkadelphia were among the topics discussed at Monday night’s Housing Subcommittee meeting.
The subcommittee is part of the Clark County Strategic Planning process. The meeting was held at the Caplinger Airway Science Center at Henderson State University.
Gordon Hale, Scott Tatman, Bud Reeder and Brown Hardman answered questions submitted to the committee via the CCSP’s survey. Tom Calhoon moderated the discussion.
During the meeting, Billy Bunn unveiled his plans to develop The Gardens, a retirement community to be constructed on a little more than eight acres between Walnut and South 26th streets.
In answer to a question about what type of housing Clark County most needs, Hardman said more homes priced between $80,000 and $100,000 would fill the greatest need locally. “For those people who make $10 to $12 an hour, that is the price they can best start out with.”
He said houses in that price range “need to be developed.” Tatman noted that he recently sold a house for $70,000, “but there was a grant involved. Grants won’t pertain in every situation.”
Tatman said many elderly residents are “leaking” out of Clark County to live nearer to health care centers. He said the county needs retired residents to stay here for a variety of reasons.
Bunn then talked about The Gardens, which he said has been in the planning stages for a few years now. He said the development includes plans for six two-bedroom homes. The development will be strictly for seniors 55 and up, and will operate as a homeowners association, with management maintaining the lawns. “We’ll provide all the amenities, from food to in-home health care,” he said.
“We hope to provide affordable retirement living,” he said. “I hope we will keep our seniors.”
He said individual plans can be modified by the purchasers. Each home would have a base price, with amenities priced accordingly. He said local real estate companies can sell the lots and amenities and the purchasers can choose their own builders.
“We are open to suggestions from the senior community,” Bunn said. He said he plans to present the Arkadelphia City Board with a plat in January.
Reeder was asked if he feels it’s true that real estate in Arkadelphia is priced higher than real estate in cities of a similar size. He said it is true to a point, “depending on where you’re coming from. Lots may be different (in price), but only a couple of thousand dollars, not $10,000. Building materials come from the same suppliers, builders on the same pay schedule. I don’t see that much difference. Yes, it’s higher if you’re coming from a $3,000 lot.”
He said high real estate prices are mostly a matter of perception.
Tatman agreed. “A lot of those people who make those comments have not bought a house in the last 10 years,” he said. “I think people do get sticker shock when they look at the cost of new construction. It’s not necessarily higher here.”
Calhoon noted that people in many other cities say prices are higher where they live. An audience member said a lot of people from larger cities naturally assume prices are going to be lower in small towns, adding to the perception of higher prices in Arkadelphia.
Hale said he thinks prices are a little higher in Arkadelphia. Referring to some research he had done on the question, “Cost of living is higher here. I think we’re high, always have been. But Arkadelphia is a much nicer place (than other cities). It’s a great place to live. Maybe you get what you pay for.”
He said the city limits haven’t grown much in several decades, and noted that the population is “spreading out into farm-ettes. People want five acres, a horse and a pond.” He said there “isn’t a whole lot of building inside the city limits.”
In other discussion, Hardman said the problem isn’t housing, but jobs. “This county has lost 750 jobs since the third quarter of 2001. That’s 750 homes we don’t need. We need jobs.”
Bunn pointed out that builders here are in a “catch 22. Industries come and say, ‘where is the housing?’ But builders can’t go to the banks and say ‘we need to build 25 spec houses.’ Industries want it, and we’re willing to provide it, but we have to have somebody there to buy it.”
An audience member suggested marketing Arkadelphia to the parents of college students and focusing on duplexes as a source of housing and income. Dr. Wesley Kluck pointed out the trend that “colleges are moving more into the housing business.”
Reeder agreed, saying he has more rental properties available now due to the fact that Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist universities are building residence halls where students are either required to live or may choose to live. “They are eliminating tenants,” he said. “They are our biggest competitors.”
The idea of building condos along the Ouachita River for retired OBU graduates was also discussed.
“We have to learn how to capitalize on our assets,” Calhoon said.