Report: Pandemic Struck Amid Rise in Home Ownership, Costs

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The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted central Arkansas’ economy just as it had begun causing a rise in home ownership and housing costs, according to a Metroplan report released Tuesday.

“The rise in renting has slowed, and in 2018 the share of owners began growing again,” according to the “2020 Demographic Review & Outlook.” “Renting and multi-family remained, however, more important in the regional housing picture during the 2010 decade than they had been previously.”

The report examines trends in the Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway Metropolitan Statistical Area, or MSA, and was released by Metroplan, the central Arkansas planning agency.

It also states that the region’s economic future is uncertain because of the pandemic.

In addition, housing costs in the region were a mixed bag compared with national averages.

Homeowners in central Arkansas “generally get a lot of house for their money. Local costs are also moderate for renters” compared to the U.S. as a whole, the report states.

On the other hand, half of those renters have incomes below $35,000, so the region’s share of cost-stressed renters is well above the U.S. average. 

As for construction, several large multi-family projects that began prior to the pandemic are still underway, but the building of single-family housing has slowed. In May, the region saw about 75% as many single-family permits as it had in May 2019.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • The regional population had reached approximately 750,000 by Jan. 1 while slow but steady population growth continues. Saline County is the fastest-growing area in central Arkansas.

  • African American homeownership in the Little Rock metro ranks 30th among the top 100 metros in the country; 43.7% of the region’s African American households own their own homes. 

  • The median household income for African Americans in the Little Rock region is 59.6% of white median household incomes, ranking No. 49 among the largest 100 metros.

  • In April, regional employment dropped by 37,000 jobs compared to the same month a year prior. In May, unemployment was 10.1%, down from 10.9% in April. 

  • There has been an unprecedented rise in pedestrian and biking activity in the region since the pandemic began.