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Little Rock director calls for eviction moratorium, urges action by state

by Rachel Herzog | July 7, 2020 at 7:21 a.m.
FILE — Little Rock City Hall is shown in this 2019 file photo.

A Little Rock city director is proposing a moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

A resolution expected to be introduced tonight by Ward 2's Ken Richardson will urge Little Rock landlords to "halt all evictions at every stage of the process," suspend late fees for tenants and not to report missing or late rental payments until the state of emergency has been lifted.

The resolution also would call on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to issue a statewide moratorium on evictions, late fees and reporting of late or missing payments, and to establish an emergency fund to help tenants who cannot pay rent because of the public health crisis.

Richardson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that many renters work in the service industry and have experienced financial difficulties because of the closures and economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

He added that even if the resolution does not have any legal ramifications for landlords, it at least "puts on the record that we have concern for our citizens."

There were 287 evictions filed in Arkansas courts in June, an increase of more than 100 from the number filed in May, according to a Democrat-Gazette analysis.

The city has seen multiple protests demanding a halt to evictions, including outside an apartment complex in southwest Little Rock in June as well as outside the Governor's Mansion in May.

[DOCUMENT: Ken Richardson's proposal to halt evictions during covid-19 pandemic » arkansasonline.com/77proposal/]

Hutchinson has not instituted any holds on evictions in the state, instead encouraging landlords to work with their tenants.

Some federally funded housing is already exempt from evictions. In April, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a ban on evictions for nonpayment of rent at properties covered by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, including federally subsidized housing, rural voucher-program housing and housing financed through federally backed mortgages until July 25.

The Metropolitan Housing Alliance, Little Rock's housing agency, also said in March that public housing residents would not be evicted, and that the housing agency would not terminate anyone using Section 8 vouchers for housing.

The resolution was still being finalized Monday afternoon, but City Attorney Tom Carpenter said he intended to have it ready to be added to the agenda for today's Little Rock Board of Directors meeting.

Richardson's proposal was first reported by the Arkansas Times.

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