Covington crafted another tool in its effort to replace substandard housing and revive a stagnant business district when it created the Covington Redevelopment Authority last week.
Mayor Kim Carter said the authority’s sole goal is to carry out the recently approved Urban Redevelopment Plan, which identifies the most blighted neighborhoods and underdeveloped business centers, and lays out a plan to fix those.
On Monday, the city council approved the CRA’s bylaws, which lay out the structure and powers of the CRA. Councilman John Howard said the council made sure that the CRA, unlike some other authorities, will be more closely overseen by the mayor and council. The CRA will not have the right to levy taxes at all and will only have the power of eminent domain if the council approves use of that power. Eminent domain allows the government to purchase private property, with or without the owner’s consent, if the government pays fair value and uses the land for public uses, like schools, hospitals and highways.
Industrial Development Authority Chairperson Frank Turner Jr. was elected chairperson of CRA and will head up the nine-person authority.
"I agreed to do it, because I think the CRA can be a very effective body. I currently serve on state Department of Community Affairs Board, and in that capacity I see these URPs implemented in communities all over the state," Turner said. "I felt strongly that this is something Covington needs to do to stay on par with our peers. A community of our size should have these tools in the toolbox to stay competitive in job recruitment and economic development."
Turner said the biggest benefit of the URP and CRA will be in assisting the city in getting more state and federal grants and attracting more private businesses. He said the city will be more competitive in going after grants to improve neighborhood infrastructure, like sidewalks, landscaping, roads and water and sewer lines.
"We’re going to get more points in the competitive grant process, and areas in the URP will now have a leg up. The URP is designed to target areas with pervasive poverty and improve them. These areas have been in poverty for a long time, and now we’re saying ‘Hey these areas should be considered for this assistance.’," he said.In addition to removing housing blight, the URP will attract private business investment by allowing business to more easily obtain tax credits. Turner said an affordable housing complex would be much more likely to get a tax credit in an URP area, which is important because affordable housing companies make their money from tax credits, not from rent.
The URP also creates opportunity zones and companies locating there would be able to get tax credits by creating jobs. Turner said for each job created past the first one, a company can get $3,500 in income tax credit per job.
"This is nearest and dearest to my heart …. because for a small business these credits could add up to $30,000 or $40,000," he said.
The rest of the CRA is Vice-Chair Juanita Thompson, Scott Cole, Michelle Cunniffe, Rasti Hollingsworth, Clay Newman, Tony Ramsey, Charles Skrobot and Roger Smith.
Carter said the group has a broad range of applicable skills from experience in areas like business, banking, law, construction, planning and as homeowners in the affected neighborhoods. She said the CRA Organizing Committee selected younger community residents with children who had a direct stake in the long-term future of the community.
Carter said the first CRA meeting will take place soon but has not yet been scheduled.