THE ISSUES

LOCAL SURVEY REVEALS DISMAL SITUATION FOR RENTERS IN ARKANSAS

Little Rock, AR – Arkansas Community Organizations, in conjunction with the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and the Arkansas Community Institute released a report today that found that the state’s lack of an implied warranty of habitability negatively affects the health of the community.
The report, titled “Out of Balance: Arkansas Renters Share their Experiences Navigating the State’s Unique Landlord-Tenant Laws,” points out the dismal disparity when it comes to landlords and tenants, since renters in Arkansas virtually have no rights, and can even go to jail for failing to pay their rent; while landlords, on the other hand, are not legally required under state law to make any repair to their rental units.

The link to the entire report is:

http://publichealth.uams.edu/files/2012/06/Arkansas-Renters-Report_final.pdf

A total of 1,108 surveys were collected; approximately 600 from ACO’s Little Rock office, 350 in ACO’s Pine Bluff office, and the remainder from DeQueen, sites in southwest Little Rock and other places. More than half (54%) currently reside in Little Rock zip codes, 13% in North Little Rock zip codes, 19% in Jefferson County zip codes and 14% in some other zip code.
Some of the main findings of the report include:

• 32% of renters who were surveyed reported that they had a problem with their landlord making needed repairs.

• The top three household problems were plumbing, heating or cooling, and pests or rodent control.

• The majority of respondents who reported a problem had to ask the landlord repeatedly to make repairs. More than one-third of the people with problems ended up moving.

• Landlords eventually fixed the problems for just over half of respondents.

• One-quarter of those who had a problem with their landlord experienced a health issue they attributed to problems with the property. Those health issues included increased stress, breathing problems, headaches, high blood pressure and bites or infections.

• Respondents with less than a high school education were 33% more likely to report problems with their landlord than individuals with more than a high school education.

• Hispanic respondents were 41% more likely than whites to report problems with their landlord. They also experienced verbal abuse and were threatened with eviction at significantly higher rates than non-Hispanic respondents were. Hispanic respondents also moved more frequently as a result.

A warranty of habitability would be an important first step in addressing the state’s out-of-balance landlord-tenant laws by providing tenants with a tool to ensure the right to a safe and healthy living environment. More than 375,000 Arkansans, or 33% of the state population, are renters.

When asked if they were familiar with the state’s landlord tenant laws, the majority of renters surveyed (68%) answered that they were not aware that of the law that “requires tenants to pay the rent regardless of the property condition”.

To set up interviews with people involved in the study, please call Neil Sealy at 501-376-7151.

Arkansas Community Organizations is sponsoring a register the 47% voter drive on Saturday, September 29.

 To volunteer, call our office in Little Rock at 501-376-7151 and in Pine Bluff at 870-536-6300.

 In Pine Bluff, we will register voters from 9:00 AM to 1 PM at the Save-U-More at 3rd and Blake and the USA Drugs on 28th Street.

In Little Rock, we will register voters from 10 AM to 4PM at the City Market in Rose City, the City Market at 12th and Lewis and K Hall Grocery at Wright Avenue and Battery.

LITTLE ROCK CITY SALES TAX PASSES:  OUR WORK HAS JUST BEGUN!

Neighborhoods south of I-630 in Little Rock voted against the one cent sales tax increase.  Voters from wealthier neighborhoods outvoted us.  Let this be a lesson — we have to do everything to turn out the vote.  We were outspent by at least 10 to 1.  We did well, but did not win.

Now the City of Little Rock has a lot of money.  City Hall will get $1 million in new money every week for the next ten years.  There is no excuse for bad streets, neighborhoods without sidewalks and inadequate street lighting.

We have a lot to do over the next few months.  We must oppose plans to destroy neighborhoods to build a Technology Park.  And we must make sure the tax goes to benefit our neighborhoods.  Join us and help us keep City Hall accountable!

PROTECT SOCIAL SECURITY

ACO has joined with 270 organizations across the country in the Strengthen Social Security Campaign to protect our Social Security from budget cuts.  There are more than 600,000 Arkansans who depend on the program as a lifeline.  All of us pay into the system.  It’s running a surplus — why cut it?  ACO will work with other organizations to hold Arkansas’s Congressional delegation accountable for their votes on Social Security.   Please join us and tell them:  Hands off our Social Security!

STOP CUTS TO MEDICARE AND MEDICAID

Some Washington politicians are threatening to cut Medicaid and turn it into a block grant system.  Hundreds of thousands of people in Arkansas depend on Medicaid for their health coverage.  The House Republican proposal will swell the ranks of the uninsured in our state and nation.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher system will mean that more seniors will have to choose between paying a heating bill or buying the medicine they need.  As the cost of health care  skyrockets, seniors will see their health coverage diminish under a voucher system.

Please call your Representative today to tell them you oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

LIVING WAGE

ACO believes that every worker deserves to be paid a living wage.  Every worker should have health benefits and paid sick days.  Many companies pay their workers sub-poverty wages and do not give them access to affordable health benefits or even the day off with pay when they get sick.  In the past many ACO members have been involved in successful campaigns to increase the minimum wage and win living wage policies.  The Central Arkansas Library System and the City of Pine Bluff both have living wage policies.

This year ACO members will monitor the City of Pine Bluff to ensure that it is following its living wage law.  We will work for a living wage ordinance to cover Jefferson County government and corporations who benefit from the county’s new economic development sales tax.

In Little Rock we will begin a campaign to tie basic labor standards (living wage, health care and paid sick days) to the city’s economic development strategy.

And we believe that it’s time to give Arkansas a raise by increasing the state’s minimum wage.

AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL

ACO works with Health Care for America Now (HCAN), Community Catalyst and other networks to build support for health care reform in Arkansas. In early 2010 the organization worked to pass the Affordable Care Act. ACO will continue to work to make sure that the reform is implemented and will fight efforts by some in the state legislature to derail the implementation of the law. The reform will give hundreds of thousands of Arkansans access to quality, affordable health care.

ACO will also work to make sure that non-profit hospitals carry out the new regulations on charity care in the Affordable Care Act.  We believe that non-profit hospitals should notify patients about charity and should end aggressive debt collection practices.  These hospitals receive millions of dollars in tax breaks.

EDUCATION

Arkansas Community Organizations is affiliated with Communities for Excellent Public Schools, a national coalition working to change national education policy.  We believe that low-income and minority children do not have the same educational opportunities as children from more affluent backgrounds.  Instead of punishing schools where students score low on standardized tests, we should provide support for students and teachers by adding evidence based programs that help a child to learn.  We believe that it is important to have the community involved in our schools.  We reject top down approaches to education.  Current Arkansas policy on charter schools is a threat to public education by taking resources out school districts.

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH

ACO works to educate the low-income and African-American communities about climate change, the Clean Air Act and toxics in our communities.  Last year we organized events to put pressure on Senator Lincoln regarding her support for the Murkowski Resolution that would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. This year we are beginning an effort to make sure that schools in our neighborhoods are safe from PCB contamination.

COMPREHENSIVE FINANCIAL REFORM

In 2010 ACO worked with Americans for Financial Reform to build support for a strong consumer protection agency and strong regulation of our financial sector. ACO will work to educate the community about new protections in the law and to defend the consumer protection provisions of the new law from attacks by Wall Street lobbyists.  We worked with Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending to stop out of state companies from setting up a new form of predatory lending called installment loans.

IMMIGRATION

ACO supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to legalization and citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pay their taxes and contribute to society.  Our current immigration system is broken and inhumane.  Please tell our elected officials that you support the DREAM Act and a path to legalization for those living in the shadows.

BETTER CITY SERVICES IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS

The organization has also been active on local issues. In Pine Bluff, ACO members campaigned against a water rate increase and are fighting for bathroom facilities in parks on the city’s north side.

In Little Rock, ACO members in the South End are working to get sidewalks for their neighborhood. Oak Forest members are fighting for a traffic light on 12th Street near the intersection with Madison.

The organization has also collaborated with Arkansas Community Housing to enable low-income people in Pulaski and Jefferson counties to receive affordable home mortgages and to improve their access to all types of credit. In January ACO opened free tax filing sites in Pulaski and Jefferson counties.