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Housing shortages affecting Arkansas community

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 8:56 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - Many counties across the state are feeling the effects as the price to build a home continues to skyrocket.

According to the University of Arkansas’ Division of Agriculture Rural Report, Lawrence County’s population fell in the last decade more than six percent.

Even though county leaders say things are looking up, especially with more industry coming in and the I-57 project running through the area, some are concerned about the lack of options on the housing market.

“It is a seller’s market, right now,” said Terry Ryan, owner of Ryan’s Real Estate in Walnut Ridge. “But if you sell one, you’ve got to have somewhere to go.”

The lack of options is something Ryan has been noticing. As of May 26, just 30 homes are available in the entire county.

“We have never seen that few of homes on the market in the 20-plus years I’ve been here,” Ryan said.

Many factors play into this, but Ryan said the rise in the cost to build is one of the main concerns. To this point, Ryan’s Real Estate has handed out just four permits to build single-family homes. He attributes that to the increasing cost.

“Right now, price is critical,” Ryan said. “A lot of people that were planning to build are backing off now.”

Ryan added that the shortages don’t just impact his business, it affects everyone in the county.

“We need inventory, we need houses to sell,” Ryan said. “If we don’t have houses to sell, we’re in trouble”

“We definitely need new homes built so people can transition up,” Ryan said. “Then the house they move out of will become available maybe for a first-time homebuyer.”

Shortage of property is also affecting public housing. At the Lawrence County Public Housing Agency, they’re seeing more families on the waitlist than usual.

“Right now, we have about 40-to-50 families looking for housing,” Operations Manager Maggie Callahan said.

Right now, she said the wait time to apply for public housing would take anywhere between one to three months. Options are limited she said, and recent rental properties are too pricey for those needing affordable housing.

“We do have new properties coming to the area, but everything that’s brand new the rent is too high for our program,” Callahan said. “We’re in need of modest housing.”

Dozens of apartment complexes are currently under construction in Walnut Ridge. But Ryan says the complexes are filling up as fast as they’re being built. He says renting is a popular option right now.

“We get calls every day from people wanting to rent something,” Ryan said. “Most of them are wanting to rent a house. But everything is filled up.”

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