The Arkansas Coalition of Housing and Neighborhood Growth for Empowerment (ACHANGE), an NLIHC state coalition partner, recently issued A Review of Affordable Housing in Arkansas: The Supply, the Need and the Role of Government. Advocates hope the report, which discusses the adequacy and affordability of housing in the state, will educate lawmakers and provide data to hone their own affordable housing initiatives.
The report addresses advocates’ concerns about the extent to which housing data, specifically 2010 Census data, accurately describe Arkansas’ affordable housing situation. Advocates believe discrepancies exist between what the data show and what practitioners observe when working with low income populations, specifically the suggestion that low income Arkansans have greater housing stability than is the case nationally. For instance, housing costs are considerably lower in the state, with a median housing cost of $600-$699 per month compared to the national average of $1,000. Meanwhile, the level of housing cost burden is slightly lower than the rest of the nation; 85% of Arkansas households with an annual income of less than $20,000 pay more than 50% of their income on rent, compared with 90% nationally. The data also show a generally adequate supply of housing in the state, with 165,215 vacant housing units out of a total of 1,316,299 units.
Advocates assert that limitations in Census data collection lead to large numbers of low income households, mainly minority and rural populations, not being captured in the affordable housing analysis. To supplement current data, they suggest detailed studies that include personal interviews and other primary data collection efforts. ACHANGE will explore options to accomplish this goal.
A mostly rural state, Arkansas receives a lower level of HUD funds on a per-capita basis than many other states with large urban populations. In 2010, it received $90.20 per capita in HUD expenditures; the national average was $118.04. In its report, ACHANGE raises concerns with this discrepancy, noting that it makes a significant impact in the state’s ability to provide housing assistance to low income residents or invest in the preservation or production of affordable housing, especially in rural areas.
The report also includes a recommendation to capitalize the state housing trust fund. ACHANGE and Housing Arkansas, another NLIHC state coalition partner, will continue advocacy efforts to establish a source of revenue for the fund, which was established in 2009. The organizations are working with the Housing Trust Fund Project of the Center for Community Change, an NLIHC member, to develop a message campaign. Also begun are outreach efforts to share the message with advocates throughout the state.
The report raises concerns about Arkansas’ lack of a state agency with primary responsibility to create and administer affordable housing policies. Advocates believe such an agency would help leverage federal funding more effectively and reach those with the greatest housing need.
“The report and subsequent conversations have provided ACHANGE with a blueprint to guide both short-term and long-term goals,” said Debra Banks, ACHANGE program manager. “This will not be a quick progress, but we do hope to see positive change in the future for affordable housing in Arkansas. This is just the beginning.”
For more information, contact Debra Banks at email@example.com.