It's no secret that Arkansas has the worst landlord-tenant laws in the nation. It is the only state in the US where tenants are treated as criminals for paying rent late. Every other state in the nation handles this matter in civil court. It is also the only state in the US where landlords are not required by law to maintain their properties. The combination of these two things makes it almost impossible for some tenants to address legitimate issues with property owners. Most landlords do the right thing, but we still need standards in place to stop abuse, just like in 49 other states. Because of this, Arkansas has been labeled "The Worst Place to Rent in America":
2021 Washington County Habitability Ordinance
In the absence of a statewide law, we should look at local laws. My predecessor, JP Sue Madison, brought forward a habitability ordinance for Washington County in 2020, and I took up the baton in January 2021. You can read the entire ordinance here.
The Arkansas legislature will have another chance to fix this issue in early 2021. If they fail to act, I'd like to bring back a new version of this common-sense ordinance locally.
An ordinance at either the state or county level could help decrease the number of people experiencing homelessness here in District 12. The district has the bulk of the homeless population in Washington County. The Fayetteville Housing Authority (which covers all of Washington County except Springdale) is on track to get an additional $200,000 a year in voucher money on a permanent basis starting in 2021. But the vouchers can only be used on housing that meets HUD’s Housing Quality Standards. Having more units that meet those standards will help reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in our district.
The Rising Cost of Housing
In January 2021, I voted in favor of a new program providing $7.1 Million dollars in Emergency Rental Assistance to Washington County residents. The program is being run through the Fayetteville Housing Authority and the Springdale Housing Authority. I worked closely with the folks at the Fayetteville Housing Authority to help them get information and resources to get their program off the ground and make it a success.
According to the rules set by the Treasury Department, 90% of the money has to be used for rental assistance.
During my time on the FHA Board, I learned that because of rising rents in Fayetteville, many of the people we served were being forced to take the vouchers they received and move out of the city. They are using them in the County instead, where rents are less expensive, or in more affordable cities like Lincoln and West Fork. I'm all about partnerships, so I'd like to see the county work together with organizations like the FHA to educate more property owners about the benefits of accepting vouchers, so they can be used in more places. Those benefits include having vetted tenants, receiving direct deposit payments, and low delinquency rates.