Carol Johnson, PhD. Juris Doctorate
Director of Special Projects/Acquisitions
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’ 75 counties and nearly 3 million residents.
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 (HUD) 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.
The Arkansas Fair Housing Commission began organizing with the appointment of a Board of Commissioners in late 2003 and slowly began to take form. Director Johnson was named the Commission Executive Director in 2005 and began partnering with HUD to enforce fair housing/fair lending statewide and to establish the infrastructure necessary to enforce civil rights in Arkansas. Since that time, Director 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 and fair lending civil rights enforcement agency. Director Johnson has worked under the Executive leadership of Governors Huckabee, Beebe and now Hutchinson.
During her tenure with the Commission, Director 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, Director Johnson has worked with numerous housing authorities, housing developers, housing providers, lenders, real estate professionals, and others to lend critical technical support aimed at open housing access to protect both the public interest and the needs of the housing industry.
Director 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. Director Johnson 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.
In addition to providing the subject matter expertise to develop these training classes, Director Johnson also provides professional training to students and adult learners and uses proven techniques designed to provide participants with an overall view of fair housing and fair lending key issues.
Director Johnson is committed to designing and promoting educational outreach opportunity for the general public as well as industry leaders. Since 2005, Director Johnson has hosted through the Commission a free annual Fair Housing/Fair Lending Conference in April for Fair Housing Month to commemorate and highlight advancements in fair housing/fair lending statewide and nationally. Director 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 and routinely has in excess of 40-50 speaker over a typically three-day training event.
Director Johnson serves as an Instructor and Subject Matter Expert for the National Fair Housing Training Academy, a national fair housing training program that teaches fair housing professionals nationwide how to improve their skills in investigations and strategically enforcing fair housing laws in an effective, comprehensive and timely manner. Additionally, Director Johnson currently is assisting in developing the course curriculum for an upcoming training for HUD professionals on how to properly review the Assessment of Fair Housing Component of the Consolidated Plan which is required to be submitted by states and municipalities to receive HUD funds through CDBG, HOME, HOPWA and other federal programs.
Director Johnson has developed a number of innovative and creative education outreach initiatives designed to increase fair housing awareness. In 2010, Director Johnson created the AFHC Fair Housing Ambassador Program—a collaborative effort with colleges and universities throughout the state to assist college students in developing leadership skills to advance civil rights issues statewide.
The programs offers college students an opportunity to work directly with the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission at the ground level to assist in spreading the word about this important legislation. AFHC Ambassadors receive a wide range of opportunities for personal and professional development training and participation in fair housing/fair lending events statewide. AFHC Ambassadors also have the rare opportunity to discuss crucial civil rights issues with peers, community representatives and state leaders and, through their participation, help build stronger communities and create attitudes that will foster the change necessary to propel civil rights forward in the State of Arkansas. AFHC Ambassadors serve a crucial role in helping to reach younger Arkansans across the state.
An inaugural weekend 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. Since that time AFHC Ambassadors have participated in a number of outreach events at their colleges and throughout the state.
This program received national recognition and funding by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2012. In 2014, Director Johnson hosted the AFHC Ambassadors in a civil rights excursion to Washington, D.C., at no cost to the students where they met with national civil rights leaders and enforcement agencies to learn more about how to be involved in civil rights. Students met with representatives from HUD, the Department of Justice, congressional representatives and others.
In furtherance of protecting public access to housing, Director 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.