Oh, There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays
December 21, 2018
The holidays are a time of family, a time of love, a time of joy. For many of us, these collective celebrations are the only chances we get each year to return home and visit loved ones. Our houses are more than just units or structures; they are a safe haven filled with happy memories, shaping all of us into the people we are today.
However, since 2015, the most vulnerable residents of Arkansas have fallen prey to a ruthless scheme that is evicting them from their homes. During a time where these families deserve a warm sanctuary in which to gather, many are facing eviction and mounting debt.
An ordinance in Newark, Arkansas, has banned all houses from city limits if they are worth less than $25,000 (for a single-wide trailer) or $35,000 (for a double-wide trailer). Adding insult to the injury, families face a daily fee of up to $500 a day for those with homes that do not meet or surpass the price floor.
This shameful ordinance eliminates affordable housing options for countless individuals at a time when rent is steadily on the rise and wages have stagnated. In Arkansas, for every 100 working family households living on extremely low income, the state has only 50 affordable homes available. And according to a recent Reuters poll, housing prices are predicted to rise at twice the rate of inflation and average earnings. This home banishment scheme is only exacerbating a growing problem, and Newark’s unethical and unconstitutional ordinance has set an alarming precedent for future home banishment cases across the country.
According to a recent Reuters poll, housing prices are predicted to rise at twice the rate of inflation and average earnings.
Governments have a duty to close, not widen, the poverty gap and to pass laws that integrate all people – not just those with wealth.
Poverty is not a crime.
The only criteria for home banishment in Newark is the minimum pricing limit; it fails to take into account other more important factors that actually define what makes a home habitable. Homeowners are criminalized for houses that are completely safe and functional on the grounds that they have a market value lower than what the city deems permissible. This discrimination only increases wealth discrepancy and does nothing for the general welfare of the city; it only attempts to promote the general welfare of the people who can afford more expensive homes.
Cities such as Newark do not have the right to rip families from their homes. Governments have a duty to close, not widen, the poverty gap and to pass laws that integrate all people – not just those with wealth. Doing so benefits the city overall, both morally and economically.
The problem with home banishment is that it does just the opposite of this; it conspires to scapegoat people who are poor and homes without high appraisals by presenting home banishment as a panacea to the city’s misfortunes. It implies that homes valued below a certain amount threaten the city’s well being when, in reality, affordable housing is currently one of the most pressing issues in the country.
The holidays are supposed to be a time of gathering – not a time of separation and threats of punitive evictions. And everyone, including all residents of Newark, deserve to celebrate from the comfort of their homes, regardless of how much they are worth. Because it’s like they say, there really is no place like home for the holidays.
This holiday season, stand with Equal Justice Under Law in the battle for all, regardless of wealth or status.
In July 2018, Equal Justice Under Law filed a lawsuit against the city of Newark, seeking a declaration from the federal court that Newark’s Exclusion Ordinance unconstitutionally discriminates and penalizes individuals based off their wealth status. Additionally, we sought an injunction prohibiting the city from banishing residents simply because they are poor. In the New Year, Equal Justice Under Law will be preparing this case for trial with the hopes of bringing justice to all residents of Newark.
LIST SOURCES used in this STORY
Kishan, H., & Karunakar, R. (2018, June 6). U.S. house prices to rise at twice the speed of inflation and pay: Reuters poll. Reuters. Retrieved November 2018, from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-property-poll/u-s-house-prices-to-rise-at-twice-the-speed-of-inflation-and-pay-reuters-poll-idUSKCN1J20G3?il=0