City & County

Arkadelphia Housing Authority reports 20% vacancy

Carpenter Hill Apartments are among the three properties managed by the Arkadelphia Housing Authority, which is reporting an overall vacancy rate of 20%. | Leslie Kent/The Arkadelphian

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

City officials learned Tuesday that public housing in Arkadelphia is struggling to keep tenants. There is more public housing available at the three apartment complexes overseen by the Arkadelphia Housing Authority than there are low-income tenants looking for an affordable place to rent.

“We are underperforming right now,” Dr. Nadine Jarmon, executive director of the Hot Springs Housing Authority, told the Arkadelphia Board of Directors in a request to waive the AHA’s 2022 pilot funds in the amount of $9,060.

Of the 100 units AHA oversees there are currently 20 vacancies, which has put a “serious dent in our revenue,” Jarmon said. The three AHA properties are Carpenter Hill Apartments, 670 S. 6th St.; Southview Apartments, 650 S. 5th St.; and Pine Courts, 120 N. 20th St.

Jarmon fielded several questions from city directors, mainly Assistant Mayor Roland Gosey, who asked for an explanation of why there are so many vacancies and what efforts are in place to reduce them.

In recent months, Jarmon replied, AHA used $158,000 in HUD funding to make basic improvements like cabinetwork and flooring to the apartments, which were built in the 1950s. AHA is also recruiting landlords for its Section 8 voucher program of which there is a “healthy” wait list but an issue with recruiting local landlords to participate.

So why so many vacancies? It’s a combination of factors, Jarmon told directors, namely the overall condition of the 70-year-old properties. Another factor was an uptick in post-Covid evictions after a federal moratorium placed restrictions on landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent.

In further discussion prior to casting a vote, Ward 5 Director Jason Jones said he had reservations about doling out funds to the AHA if there is no apparent demand for public housing. Jones, however, would go on to join the other four present directors in the unanimous vote in favor of the funding.

Directors OK reallocation to buy police radios

The city board approved the reallocation of $37,000 in Act 988 funds to the city’s general fund to buy 24 new handheld portable radios for the Arkadelphia Police Department.

Act 988 funds come from fines associated with citations that APD officers issue for certain non-moving violations. Radios are among the items the act allows agencies to purchase.

Police Chief Jason “Shorty” Jackson said the department’s radios are outdated, but that the agency would keep the old ones for use by SWAT team officers or for other scenarios when police from other agencies need a radio to join and use APD’s frequency.

Directors move $12K to sanitation department

The board also approved the allocation of $12,300 to the sanitation department for over-expenditures from 2022, a year that saw in increase in fuel costs, garbage bags and vehicle maintenance.