Suit Charges Arkansas City Criminalizes Poverty

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Photo by Phil Thomas via Flikr

Equal Justice Under Law (EJUL) filed a lawsuit yesterday against an Arkansas city for allegedly discriminating against poor residents.

The D.C.-based civil rights organization charges in its complaint that the city of Newark’s 2015 exclusion ordinance forbidding mobile homes worth less than $25,000 (single-wide) or $35,000 (double-wide) from existing within the city limits effectively criminalizes poverty.

Residents who violate the ordinance are fined up to $500 a day; failure to pay is a criminal offense. This policy, EJUL claims, leaves poor residents of Newark–located in central Arkansas, population 1,176 in 2010 census—with few options: they can pay exorbitant fines, buy or rent more expensive homes, become homeless, or refuse to move or pay and face criminal charges.

Newark, Ark.

City of Newark, Ark. Photo courtesy EJUL

EJUL hopes its complaint will call attention to the lack of affordable housing in Arkansas. The group claims that for every 100 working family households living on extremely low income, the state has only 50 affordable homes available.

The organization has asked the courts for an injunction prohibiting the city from banishing residents simply because they cannot afford more expensive homes.

Executive Director Phil Telfeyan said in a press release, “No city should ban residents simply for being too poor to live in an expensive home.”

“Newark’s exclusionary and discriminatory practice contradicts our values as a society and the basic principles of fairness embodied in our Constitution.”

The group has successfully sued the neighboring city of McRoy over the same issue.

This summary was prepared by Elena Schwartz, a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments welcome.

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