Housing crisis

CCMC sees the housing crisis every day

Every day, Cooperative Christian Ministries and Clinic sees the heartbreaking reality of what the lack of affordable housing is doing to working families.

We recognize the importance of emergency shelters which aim to help people achieve a sustainable lifestyle, enabling them to transition into affordable housing. However, even if people find jobs that can afford them a way out of shelter, the reality is that in Hot Springs — and most of the country — there’s still nowhere to go but. they can afford.

We applaud the Hot Springs Board of Directors for making it their goal to pass a housing strategy plan to address this very real housing issue. The August 15 article in The Sentinel-Record covering the council’s plan to adopt a housing strategy cited that 20% of our residents live below the federal poverty line. Another demographic that needs to be considered when discussing housing is ALICE families – hard working people with limited assets, limited income and employees (ALICE). Between ALICE families and those living below the poverty line, 41% of our state cannot afford housing.

The report presented to city council noted that with the “fair rent of $807 for a two-bedroom house in the city, many families are priced out.” What our community needs to understand is that $807 includes not only rent, but also utility values ​​set by housing and urban development. Taking this two bedroom example, if there is electric heat, electric stove, other electric uses, air conditioning, electric water heater, water, sewer, fees, garbage collection , stove/microwave, and refrigerator, these utilities total $252, which means that to stay in HUD’s “fair market value” units, the actual rent would need to be $555.

Affordability is not the only housing concern for 41% of our population. Lynn Foster’s op-ed in the most recent publication, Engage, produced by the Community Foundation of Arkansas, noted that “decent housing and tenant rights have long been issues in Arkansas, to the extent where tenants in Arkansas have far fewer rights than those in Arkansas is the only state without an implied guarantee of livability in residential leases.

She goes on to note that in 2021, Arkansas General Assembly Law 1052 requires landlords to meet certain standards, but they cannot be required to repair properties once the tenant has moved in. When tenants need repairs to their rented accommodation, landlords are under no obligation and, if no action is taken, tenants must either pay for these expenses or move out.

We are heartened that our town officials and council members have recognized the dire situation that affordable housing represents for a large percentage of our neighbors in the community. We have a lot of work to do, laws that need to be changed to protect not only landlords but also renters, and yes, codes that need to be revised to make it easier to build and find affordable housing in a community that relies heavily on hard-working, low-paying service jobs. We applaud the Hot Springs Board of Directors for making it their goal to adopt a housing strategy plan, and we look forward to a time when working hard and having decent, affordable housing will be achievable expectations.

Kim Carter is the executive director of CCMC, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that strives to improve the lives of “our underserved and underresourced neighbors.” It does this by focusing on three areas of human need: advocacy services, charitable health care, and poverty reduction programs.