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Last tenants in troubled Little Rock apartment complex offered assistance


Last tenants in troubled Little Rock apartment complex offered assistance

Sep 21, 2023 | 7:00 pm ET
By Tess Vrbin
Last tenants in troubled Little Rock apartment complex offered assistance
Karen Dykes looks inside the moldy kitchen cabinets at her Big Country Chateau apartment in Little Rock on May 16, 2023. (Tess Vrbin/Arkansas Advocate)

The city of Little Rock and the court-appointed receiver for a troubled apartment complex have offered rental assistance for up to six months and $1,000 to help with moving costs to the residents who remain there, Deputy City Attorney Alan Jones said Thursday.

The city’s goal since June has been to move everyone out of Big Country Chateau and shut it down. As of early August, 24 units were still occupied. That number has gone down to 17, city Housing Director Kevin Howard said in an interview Wednesday.

Jones and Cody Kees, attorney for Texas-based receiver Sal Thomas, appeared before the judge presiding over the long-running case on Thursday to update her on efforts to relocate tenants and decide whether another report is needed. Jones said all parties agreed another update should be presented to the court in 30 days.

Thomas has been overseeing the complex and collecting tenants’ rent and utility payments since February.

Thomas has not evicted any of the remaining tenants or leased out vacant units since taking over Big Country Chateau. He has repeatedly said in circuit court documents that a minority of tenants have been making rent and utility payments for the past several months.

In July, Thomas collected a total of $2,711 from five residents, according to a report he filed with the court Aug. 23. That report noted $187,548 in delinquent rent payments from the remaining tenants at the time.

Finding new units for Big Country Chateau tenants has been a challenge at times, since some  have accessibility needs due to physical disabilities, while others have a history of evictions or convictions that come up during background checks from potential landlords, Howard said.

The city inspects each new unit before a tenant moves in, Howard said, and the city can then help the tenants with up to six months of rent if the tenants have paid the application fee.

“If someone’s working check to check, it can be hard to pay those fees,” Howard said.

100 Families, an initiative within the local nonprofit Restore Hope, has been helping the city relocate Big Country Chateau residents. Additionally, the Housing Authority of Little Rock, commonly known as the Metropolitan Housing Alliance, is helping to relocate the tenants that receive public housing assistance, Howard said.

Additionally, the city has been working with a moving company to help move tenants’ belongings, and Thomas has contributed $1,000 per household in moving expenses, Howard said.

Editor-in-Chief Sonny Albarado contributed to this report.