Carol Johnson, J.D., M.A., is the Executive Director of the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission (AFHC), the only state agency specifically charged with protecting the civil rights of Arkansans. The Commission is a quasi-judicial, regulatory, enforcement agency which with receives, investigates and otherwise resolves fair housing/fair lending complaints within the State of Arkansas.
The Arkansas Legislature established the Commission by Act 1785 of 2001, and delegated to the agency regulatory authority to enforce fair housing/fair lending laws within the State of Arkansas. The Commission works in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to enforce state and federal fair housing and fair lending laws. The Arkansas Fair Housing Act of 2001, as amended in 2003, provides substantially equivalent protections to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended.
Commission operations began in late 2003 via partnership with HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program. Since becoming Executive Director in 2005, Ms. Johnson was instrumental in building the Commission from its infancy stages and transitioning it from a newly formed capacity-building organization under HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program to a fully functioning and highly recognized fair housing/fair lending civil rights enforcement agency.
During her tenure at the agency, Ms. Johnson has resolved numerous fair housing/fair lending cases and has assisted many Arkansas municipalities in creating and/or amending existing ordinances to comply with zoning requirements, including the City of Hot Springs, the City of Jonesboro, the City of Harrison, the City of North Little Rock and the City of DeWitt. Additionally, Ms. Johnson has worked with numerous housing authorities and other housing providers to lend critical technical support aimed at open housing access to protect both the public interest and the needs of the housing industry.
Ms. Johnson leads the Commission in creating fair housing/fair lending education programs and training opportunities for those in the housing community and regularly trains housing providers, architects, property owners, managers, developers, consultants, appraisers, attorneys, municipalities, non-profits organizations, home-seekers and others on applicable fair housing/fair lending laws and regulations. Ms. Johnson has designed three 8-hour fair housing/fair lending training courses currently being offered by the Commission: Fair Housing: Management; Fair Housing: Design and Construction; and Fair Housing: Legal Updates.
The Commission also hosts an annual free Fair Housing Conference in April to commemorate and highlight advancements in fair housing/fair lending statewide and nationally. Ms. Johnson has been instrumental in securing the participation of nationally recognized leaders in enforcement and advancement of civil rights and fair housing/fair lending initiatives.
In 2010, Ms. Johnson created the Arkansas Fair Housing Ambassador Program to assist college students in developing leadership skills to advance civil rights issues statewide. An inaugural week-end workshop was held in March of 2011 at Ferncliff Retreat with capacity participation from college students across Arkansas. Students participated in a mock fair housing trial, learned about state and federal civil rights laws and heard from civil rights practitioners. The inaugural Ambassador class was honored during a luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock in April of 2011, during Fair Housing Month. This program received national recognition and funding by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2012.
In furtherance of protecting public access to housing, Ms. Johnson works regularly to assist housing providers, municipalities, non-profits and other interested parties in analyzing policies and practices related to fair housing/fair lending enforcement efforts.
In 2011, Ms. Johnson spearheaded a Memorandum of Understanding with the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA) to affirmatively further fair housing statewide via collaboration with the state agency responsible for disbursing governmental funding to the housing developers working within the state. ADFA is Arkansas’ largest source of low-cost financing for low-to-moderate income housing development and also administers several funding sources in the form of tax exempt bonds and other debt instruments through a series of program activities. ADFA administers such programs as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program, the Tax Credit Assistance Program, the Section 1602-Exchange Program, the Assisted Living Incentive Fund, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the CDBG Disaster Program for Affordable Rental Housing, the Financing Adjustment Factor Funds and various Affordable Housing programs in which federal funds, bonds and tax credits are used.
The only one of its kind, this MOU between the AFHC and ADFA serves to strengthen collaborative efforts within the state to ensure equitable housing opportunities to housing developers and home-seekers. This MOU implements educational and outreach components to better assist in the provision of fair housing/fair lending statewide and incorporates objectives and performance measures designed to eliminate fair housing/fair lending infractions. The MOU requires fair housing training with AFHC as a prerequisite for public funding for ADFA participants (housing providers) seeking to develop multifamily housing projects and establishes this training as a condition of allocation of any ADFA affordable housing resources.
Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the MOU incorporates an enforcement and monitoring component to ensure compliance with fair housing laws by ADFA participants in collaboration with AFHC and other federal entities. In keeping with the spirit of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit MOU between the Department of the Treasury, HUD and the Department of Justice, ADFA reports to the IRS its program participants who are found to be in noncompliance and in violation of the fair housing act which could result that ADFA participants loss of low-income housing tax credits.
Ms. Johnson holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas; a Master of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.
Her career includes work in public relations and media, including time as a reporter for the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record and work in the Public Relations/External Relations Departments of Texas Christian University and Bowen Law School, respectively.
A licensed attorney, Ms. Johnson has worked in various areas of administrative, civil and criminal law, and held a clerkship with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office. Ms. Johnson previously worked with the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission performing de novo reviews of Administrative Law Judge decisions and with the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services litigating child dependency-neglect cases and participating in administrative hearings regarding adult protective services. Additionally, Ms. Johnson is a former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Garland County, Arkansas.