(KAIT) - A 2015 ordinance created by the city of Newark is discriminatory and takes away the ability for people to afford a home because they are too impoverished to do so, a suit filed this week in federal court alleged.
In the 72-page complaint, filed by attorneys Phil Telfeyan and Marissa Hatton of the Washington, DC-based Equal Justice Under Law, Beverly Kilpatrick, Veneda Marshall, Robert Marshall, Becky Altom and Jonathan Jarvis allege that the ordinance is harmful.
"This case is about the city of Newark's discriminating against some of Independence County's poorest residents simply because they are too impoverished to afford an expensive home. In 2015, the City Council passed an ordinance forbidding any manufactured home worth less than $25,000 (single-wide) or $35,000 (double-wide) from existing within the city limits, punishable by fines of up to $500 for each day a person lives in a home valued below these arbitrary amounts," the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. "Newark's 'Exclusion Ordinance' has nothing to do with the health or safety conditions of a given manufactured home. It is simply a discriminatory attempt to exclude those who are not 'worthy' - in other words, not wealthy enough - from living in the city."
According to the suit, Kilpatrick, Marshall, Marshall, Altom, and Jarvis are either residents of Independence County or people who have tried to rent homes in the area.
"The city of Newark bans mobile homes unless the owner can establish by a certified appraiser or a bill of sale a value over $25,000 or $35,000, depending on the size of the home," the attorney alleged. "Individuals like Ms. Kilpatrick are unable to live in Newark only because the City has set an arbitrary monetary requirement for residence that she cannot meet. Newark's ordinance is, therefore, a thinly veiled attempt to prevent people with lower incomes from moving to Newark. Because Newark's Exclusion Ordinance takes into account only appraisal value - as opposed to legitimate health and safety concerns - it can only be explained as a government-sanctioned discrimination against impoverished people and an attempt ban them from living in the city," the suit alleges.
The defendants are seeking a declaratory judgment that the city violated the group's constitutional rights on the ordinance, asks that the ordinance be found "facially unconstitutional because they enact a wealth-based exclusion scheme", ask a judge to issue an order and judgment to stop enforcement of the ordinance, stop the collection of fines from the ordinance and asks for compensatory damages for the plaintiff's losses, as well as attorneys fees in the case.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Price Marshall and U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Volpe.