Workforce Housing Center Names Executive Director

The Northwest Arkansas Council today announced Duke McLarty will serve as executive director of the workforce housing center.

McLarty joins the center after serving as the director of government affairs and community relations for AIR Communities, a real estate investment trust focused on the ownership and management of apartment communities in the U.S. In his role at AIR, McLarty developed and implemented legislative and government affairs and community engagement strategies for one of the country’s largest owners and operators of apartments in 17 states and more than 40 cities.

Prior to joining AIR Communities in 2018, McLarty worked in several roles within the Federal Housing Administration of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development focusing on large-scale urban renewal development and multifamily development.

The Council announced the workforce housing center in March 2021 to address housing affordability in Northwest Arkansas.

Housing in Northwest Arkansas is becoming increasingly inaccessible for workers, families and seniors, according to the 2019 Our Housing Future study funded by the Walton Family Foundation.

“Duke’s unique experience with government advocacy, community engagement and consensus building for housing developments on federal, state and local levels will be valuable as the center develops innovative solutions for the region’s housing needs,” said Nelson Peacock, Northwest Arkansas Council president and CEO. “As Northwest Arkansas continues to grow, we want to ensure working families have access to high-quality, attainable housing connected to transportation options, opportunities and experiences.”

As executive director, McLarty will collaborate with community partners to develop regional strategies that address the unique challenges of each city. The center will work to promote well-designed housing options and mixed-income, walkable and transit-accessible neighborhoods for the region’s workers and their families.

“The rising costs of housing across Northwest Arkansas communities has become an increasing challenge for the Latinx families RootED supports,” said Judith Yáñez, founder and executive director of RootED, a nonprofit dedicated to helping parents navigate K-12 education options in Northwest Arkansas. “An effective strategy to address this challenge will need to embrace the obstacles of those most affected, and I look forward to working with the center to elevate the voices of our region’s working families.” 

A Missouri native, McLarty earned his bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University and Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas School of Law. He was selected after a national search that included candidates from 17 states. Yáñez was among several individuals who served on a local hiring committee that screened and provided feedback on the top candidates.

“Northwest Arkansas is in a favorable position to address the community’s housing needs now before it becomes a more serious issue,” said McLarty. “I am excited to collaborate with partners and stakeholders to ensure the region’s key workforce – teachers, first responders and so many others – can live in and contribute to the vibrancy of the communities where they work.” 

Learn more at nwacouncil.org/housing.