The Arkansas Community Institute, Central Arkansas ReEntry Coalition, and local partners conducted an HIA of H.B. 1166, which would create a “warranty of habitability”—a set of basic statewide quality standards in public and private rental housing. The project focused on the bill’s potential impacts on low-income renters living south of Interstate 630 in Little Rock, an area that includes large numbers of immigrants, African-Americans, and former inmates.
The HIA found that minimum standards for rental housing, when accompanied by enhanced code enforcement and education initiatives, could improve health and decrease housing inequalities in Little Rock. In focus groups, discussions, surveys, and interviews, residents expressed strong support for the standards, and many said they had experienced poor physical or mental health as a result of living in substandard housing. For example, the study found an association between living in a property cited for mold violations and seeking treatment for respiratory conditions at the local public hospital.
The report issued several recommendations to amplify the warranty’s positive health impacts. The HIA encouraged state agencies to collaborate on educating landlords and tenants about how housing quality can affect health, public programs and assistance that promote housing affordability and energy efficiency, dispute resolution, and fair housing laws. It further recommended that local government entities educate landlords and tenants about their obligations for maintaining units to meet the new standards, landlords’ responsibility to comply with housing codes, and legal recourse available to tenants when landlords fail to make needed repairs.
The HIA also recommended that Arkansas adopt minimum standards to ensure that housing is safe for residents and that Little Rock dedicate resources to enforcing minimum standards, set a policy to allow tenants to terminate a lease or require property owners to make needed repairs where standards are not met, and collect and disseminate code enforcement data.