In December, the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas announced it would launch Housing Northwest Arkansas—an initiative supported by a $250,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation that aims to address the region’s lack of affordable, attainable housing, at all income levels. “The steady growth of Northwest Arkansas, as with many cities and regions across the nation, compels focused attention on new visions of housing design for the region,” said Peter MacKeith, dean of the Fay Jones School.

To begin the initiative, a free symposium, hosted by the Fay Jones School will take place this weeked, February 3 and 4, in Bentonville and Fayetteville, Arkansas. Shaun Donovan, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, will give the keynote talk. Other regional and national experts will make presentations and moderate panels, all providing an overview of the policies, economic forces, and issues in design, development, and construction that pertain to affordabe housing.

Additionally, this semester at the Fay Jones School, Anne Fougeron of Fougeron Architecture in San Francisco and Kent Macdonald of California Polytechnic State University are leading an advanced design studio with University of Arkansas faculty members Carl Matthews, head of the Department of Interior Design, and Alison Turner, clinical assistant professor in architecture. Senior-level students will explore housing design research and prototypes for the region.

The initiative’s final prong, a design competiton launching February 3rd, will invite submissions of designs for mixed-use, attainable housing, including live-work units. A total of $50,000 in awards will be granted to the winners, selected by a five-member jury that includes Fougeron.

“The combination of events,” said MacKeith, “is designed to be of maximum public impact and value.”