Press Release: City of Newark Arkansas Banishes Residents Who Are Poor

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NEWARK, ARKANSAS – On July 17th 2018, Equal Justice Under Law, a national civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.,

filed a federal civil rights complaint against the City of Newark for blocking and banishing residents simply because they do not own an expensive home.

In 2015, the Newark City Council passed an Exclusion Ordinance forbidding any mobile home worth less than $25,000 (single-wide) or $35,000 (double-wide) from existing within the city limits. Failure to do so is punishable with fines up to $500 a day.

Newark’s poverty exclusion scheme heightens a serious problem across the state of Arkansas: a lack of access to affordable housing.

For every 100 working family households living on extremely low income, the state has only 50 affordable homes available. Many Newark and nearby residents, including our plaintiffs, are personally affected by this - who either cannot find affordable housing or who are prevented from offering it.

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For every 100 working family households living on extremely low income, the state has only 50 affordable homes available.

Of those affected are Veneda and Robert Marshall a retired married couple. In order to supplement their social security income, they purchase used mobile homes, which they fix up and rent out throughout Newark. With a vacant lot available on Thomas Creek Drive, the couple decided to place a double-wide mobile home there but was prevented from doing so because it did not appraise at $35,000 despite dozens of interested responses from the online rental listing.

The Marshall’s are committed to providing affordable and safe housing to local residents. None of their four properties has ever been cited for a health or safety violation. This arbitrary ordinance is preventing a retired couple on a limited income to utilize the property and resources they have available to them, while further exacerbating the need for affordable housing citywide.

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.
— Phil Telfyean, Equal Justice Under Law Executive Director

Equal Justice Under Law seeks a declaration from the federal court that the Exclusion Ordinance unconstitutionally discriminates and penalizes individuals based off their wealth status and an injunction prohibiting the City from banishing residents simply because they are poor.

Here is the Press Release and Filed Complaint.