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Arkansas Fair Housing Commission

The Arkansas Fair Housing Commission was created by Act 1785 of 2001 (as amended in 2003) of the Arkansas General Assembly to provide statewide enforcement of fair housing and fair lending laws. The Arkansas Fair Housing Commission is an enforcement agency that constitutes Arkansas’s sole civil rights regulatory authority. The commission is headed by an executive director and thirteen commissioners who are appointed statewide. The commission regulates unfair practices in real estate–related transactions based on disability, familial status (presence of children under eighteen and pregnant women), religion, sex, race, color, and national origin. As a quasi-judicial agency, with powers akin to a court, the commission may resolve issues through an administrative hearing and may order relief to include damages, attorney fees, and court costs to defend the public interest.

Discussions of the need for a state civil rights enforcement agency began under Governor Bill Clinton, and, in 1993, Governor Jim Guy Tucker signed into law the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, later amended to include the Arkansas Fair Housing Act. In 1998, Mayor Jim Dailey of Little Rock (Pulaski County) worked to advance a local fair housing ordinance to provide protections for those within the city limits.

After a series of public hearings between 1991 and 2001, the Arkansas Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights recommended a statewide civil rights enforcement agency to ensure protections enumerated by state law for all Arkansans, not limited to cities and geographic locations within the state. Its 1992 report noted, “At the State level, there is no human relations agency to safeguard all individuals from discrimination because of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, or disability in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.” The Arkansas Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights reaffirmed its recommendation for a statewide civil rights enforcement agency in its 2001 report, “Who Is Enforcing Civil Rights in Arkansas: Is There a Need for a State Civil Rights Agency?”

These discussions of a state civil rights enforcement agency culminated in the creation of the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission, which received widespread support from Mayor Dailey, the Arkansas Realtors Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and other community organizations.

On August 20, 2003, Governor Mike Huckabee signed a landmark agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recognizing the Arkansas Fair Housing Act as substantially equivalent to the federal Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968). Marking this historic day for civil rights in Arkansas, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran an article with the headline: “Arkansas Thirty-Fifth State to Have Its Own Fair Housing Enforcement Procedures.”

The Arkansas Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights revisited the issue of statewide civil rights enforcement in 2012–13 with another series of public hearings incorporating testimony by state government officials, public interest groups, legal entities, and others. In 2015, the committee recommended by a 13–0 vote the amendment of state legislation to expand civil rights enforcement to employment and public accommodations, citing specifically that the “Arkansas Fair Housing Commission was listed in 2011 as one of the best operating fair housing agencies in the nation.”

For additional information:
“Amended Bill on Fair Housing Gains Approval.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 30, 2001, p. 13A.

Arkansas Fair Housing Commission. http://www.fairhousing.arkansas.gov (accessed July 5, 2017).

“Arkansas Thirty-Fifth State to Have Its Own Fair Housing Enforcement Procedures.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 31, 2003, pp. 3, 6.

Libreto, Jennifer. “Struggle For Fair Housing to Go on, LR Mayor Says.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 7, 1999, p. B2.

“Who Is Enforcing Civil Rights in Arkansas: Is There a Need for a State Civil Rights Agency?” Washington DC: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 2001. Online at http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/sac/ar0201/main.htm (accessed July 5, 2017).

Carol Johnson
Arkansas Fair Housing Commission

Last Updated 7/5/2017

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