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“I feel like I’m living on borrowed time ☊ and I’m worried that nobody really understands the effect of this, the way this is going to impact millions of people. I don’t want to lose my home, but I probably will.”

Julie, Fayetteville

In the face of a looming crisis, visions of a viable future for housing emerge.

Reimagine Arkansas Conversations w/ Housing Advocates, Developers, Tenant Organizers and Artists

7

Cities/Towns

15

Voices

3

Conversations

This piece was also informed by a recent ProPublica piece entitled “When Falling Behind on Rent Leads to Jail Time” by the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.

The following contains interactive audio elements.
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Move your cursor over the underlined, highlighted words and click to hear that particular piece of audio and to read the broader context of the speaker’s quote.

How to Listen:

Move your cursor or finger over the underlined, highlighted words and click to hear that particular piece of audio and to read the broader context of the speaker’s quote.

When Angela was growing up, she didn’t know she was “housing insecure;” she just knew she moved around a lot ☊. Today, as the head of a regional housing authority in Northwest Arkansas, she sees housing as a spectrum ☊ where we are all trading on certain assets to get our shelter needs met. Whether you are homeless or a homeowner, housing is essential infrastructure in our communities, just like streets and emergency services, and we all have a stake in its future.
Right now, however, the news seems grim. As unemployment benefits run out and eviction moratoriums expire the end of the month, there is growing concern of an absolute nightmare ☊ of widespread evictions and the loss of traditional safety nets ☊ to provide some resilience for Arkansans ☊. Faced with the worst tenant protection laws ☊ in the nation that criminalize poverty ☊ and put property over people ☊, thousands are vulnerable, especially Black women ☊, hourly wage workers ☊, and those with language barriers ☊.
Right now, however, the news seems grim. As unemployment benefits run out and eviction moratoriums expire the end of the month, there is growing concern of an absolute nightmare ☊ of widespread evictions and the loss of traditional safety nets ☊ to provide some resilience for Arkansans ☊. Faced with the worst tenant protection laws ☊ in the nation that criminalize poverty ☊ and put property over people ☊, thousands are vulnerable, especially Black women ☊, hourly wage workers ☊, and those with language barriers ☊.
This may not be breaking news ☊, but there is a sense, even among loyal capitalists ☊, that the market can’t solve all these problems and the situation is severely warped ☊. And with little political will ☊ among legislators, few entities in the state focused on affordable housing ☊, and declining grant dollars ☊, the crisis is not getting the attention and importance it deserves ☊.
Without affordable housing, how will we thrive in the future? It is the stool ☊ on which everything else rests—jobs, public safety, education, transportation, health and nutrition—and it is all connected ☊. The good news is there’s more collaboration ☊ and unlikely partnerships ☊ working towards common goals than ever seen before. If Arkansas can get out of Arkansas’ way ☊ and leverage the resources it has to support private-public partnerships ☊, tax credits, loan funds, housing trust funds ☊, laws ☊ that provide safety and protection to renters, and access to affordable land ☊, a viable future for housing is not far-fetched ☊ but within reach.
Without affordable housing, how will we thrive in the future? It is the stool ☊ on which everything else rests—jobs, public safety, education, transportation, health and nutrition—and it is all connected ☊. The good news is there’s more collaboration ☊ and unlikely partnerships ☊ working towards common goals than ever seen before. If Arkansas can get out of Arkansas’ way ☊ and leverage the resources it has to support private-public partnerships ☊, tax credits, loan funds, housing trust funds ☊, laws ☊ that provide safety and protection to renters, and access to affordable land ☊, a viable future for housing is not far-fetched ☊ but within reach.
For 2020 to be a game-changer ☊ in affordable housing in Arkansas, everybody needs to understand how important housing is, recognize the humans ☊ impacted, and shift the way we think about housing as essential community infrastructure, not merely square footage ☊. Rather than sourcing expertise, innovation and financial investment out-of-state ☊, advocates hope to reimagine the ecosystem of resources ☊ and relationships and recruit educational institutions ☊ to join and expand the vision.

 

We have an opportunity. The question is, “do we seize it?”☊

Constellation Kit

Explore this collection of artwork and artist statements inspired by our conversations with educators throughout the state. Download freely, amplify and share generously. Give back if you can.

Artist Grayce Holcomb

Grayce Holcomb

Artist

Arkansas has some of the worst renter’s protections in the nation, as a queer woman I am deeply aware of this. But until this project, I did not know that there are people who have been to jail for being unable to pay their rent. Jail. This law is essentially allowing a debtor’s prison to exist. With this series, I wanted to highlight data that shows that this specific law 1.) exists, and 2.) does get used and ends in jail time often, even amidst the backdrop of a pandemic. I want this series to be a call to action for Arkansas – let’s end the inhumane use of this law, and reimagine housing as an essential part of a thriving community. If every person in our state were securely housed, I really do believe we would all benefit.
Artist William Clift
Artist Salma Alonso

William Clift

Artist

Safe, healthy, affordable housing is the first ingredient to well-being and prosperity. We typically think of it as a binary: either you have a roof over your head or you don’t. But a wide range of living conditions exist between homeownership and sleeping on the street — and if you’ve ever fallen on hard times, you’ll know how easy it is to slip up and down that scale.
Housing is a spectrum. We must push ourselves as a society to understand it as a spectrum — not only to better understand and empathize with those who aren’t protected, fulfilled, and empowered by their living arrangements, but as a matter of public policy. We cannot hope to lift people out of poverty and housing insecurity without first intimately familiarizing ourselves with a wide range of conditions in which they live.

Salma Alonso

Artist

What happens when a person doesn’t have stable housing? Living in vehicles or depending on shelters may limit a person’s access to quality healthcare, education, nutrition, and employment. But when a person can be housed, they can connect to these needs with greater ease. These isometric rooms illustrate that everything revolves around secure housing—a person’s housing will affect their transportation methods, the food options they have access to, and the kind of work they can accept. Guaranteeing a safe and decent place to live for the community’s most vulnerable population is essential to the community’s wellbeing.

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Reimagine Arkansas

Because the future belongs to all of us.

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