No Better Place to Be ...
On the 3rd Friday of each month (from March till December) Covingtonians gather at the historic Columbia Street Landing for the Sunset at the Landing Concerts presented by Heritage Bank. Each month Jan Biggs of the Covington Farmer’s Market arranges for wonderful, talented and eclectic artists from across the region to perform. Family and friends bring their chairs and their “refreshments” and enjoy the night sky, the chit-chat of old friends and the scenic beauty of the Bogue Falaya River. Others arrive by boat, quietly docking at the same spot trade vessels loaded and unloaded throughout the 19th century when Covington was primarily a port city.

Recently a gentleman called me over to his seat in the meadow: “Mayor, I just wanted to tell you … there is no better place to be in all of the world than right here, right now.” In some ways he was talking about that very moment on the river, but in other ways he was referring to the Big Picture.

Perhaps, from time to time, each of us should take a step back, assess the Big Picture and realize how fortunate we are to live in the year 2020 on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain.

Perhaps, just maybe, there is no better place to be in all of the world than right here, right now.
Covington's Solution to a Worldwide Problem
The need for quality, affordable housing
When I was 14 years old, my father would send me to Killian's at the corner of 27th and Jackson St. --- a small, wooden structure in Covington's historical Black community (the West 30's). Big John Callahan recalls the huge cookies one could get for a nickel. My dad really liked the "pepper sausage" and the hogs-head cheese they sliced in the rear of the shotgun house store. During those trips, I could not help but notice the poor condition of some of the houses in the neighborhood and think to myself, "this just isn't right." Today, almost 50 years later, people still live in some of those same houses. This just isn't right.

It is a complicated problem. Going in too heavy handed with code enforcement and City regulatory action has the unintended consequence of doubling rent or shuttering the home - -both which lead to homelessness.
For the past 15 years, I have given walking tours of the West 30's sharing its rich and wonderful history. However, those on my tour cannot help but notice the housing conditions. One such tour led to Leadership St. Tammany class member Bryan Burns spearheading a 501-C3 non-profit, faith based company called West 30's Redemption Company. I am proud to have played a part in the start-up, to have contributed financially and to currently serve on its Advisory Board.

Bryan's financial plan was brilliant. Rather than donate money, those that were so inclined loan sums to the cause ... usually for 1 to 3 years at whatever interest rate they select. With capital now in hand, vacant homes were purchased, renovated and sold at no profit. We are now constructing new homes.
Since 2017 we have completed 15 sales with 2 pending. Of those 17, 7 are buyers who were renting in the West 30’s. The homes range in cost from $89,000 to $139,000 -- the most affordable homes in St. Tammany Parish.
Some say “folks in the West 30’s can’t afford a $130,000 house”. Not so fast Buck-a-Roo: Someone who pays $1,000 down and finances $129,000 has a monthly payment of about $640 (that includes property taxes and insurance) ... comparable to rents in the neighborhood and considerably lower than in surrounding Covington. Instead of a structure that should be demolished, they have a brand new 3 bedroom, 2 bath home plus building equity for their descendants. We pay all of the closing costs.  
Sabrina's Story
Her Old Home
Her New Home (being blessed)
Sabrina's story is a wonderful story. She worked at the same fast food restaurant for the past 18 years. Wishing to be home for her children each morning and each afternoon, she passed on the opportunity to work as a manager. Sabrina and her children lived in the house pictured above on the left. She was paying $500 per month. The home is not salvageable.

West 30's Redemption Company built a new home for Sabrina ... right next door to her old home. With the help of some financial support from the Federal Home Loan Bank, the LA Housing Corporation and a few kind souls, the note for her new, larger home is $50 less per month than her rent was. 

The old home will be demolished and replaced with a new, affordable home.
Lack of clean, quality affordable housing is a worldwide problem. On a local level we, the community of Covington, are working to fix our little piece.
At the concert on the river the man said to me, "There is no better place to be in the world than right here, right now." I think he just might be right.
Ways to Help:

Your Church or organization can partner with West 30's Redemption Company on one of its "builds." First Baptist of Covington, Bethel Reform Methodist, First UMC of Covington, Christ Episcopal, Covenant Church, Christ Temple Church of Christ, Congregation Beth Hallel and St. Timothy's of Mandeville have each joined in as a faith partner on a home.

You can loan a sum or donate for a specific buyer / project.

City fees account for 5% of cost. You can encourage the City to lessen fees for non-profit builds in this designated area.

For more information on how you might help, email Bryan Burns
or call him at 504-782-0100.
Replies to this email go directly to Mayor Mark.

Rooted in History, Focused on the Future(literally)

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