Livingston Parish realtors credit strong school system for continued growth in housing market

As Livingston Parish continues to experience steady growth, leaders in the commercial and residential real estate sector cite one factor as the main reason for the growth: the parish’s public school system.

“Our school system for 25 years has been the driving force here,” Lawson Covington, a residential broker with Covington & Associates, said this morning at the 2015 Real Estate and Economic Forecast, a first-of-its-kind event in the parish that was hosted by the Livingston Board of Realtors.

State Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, said people often mention education as the reason they move to Livingston Parish. That creates a cyclical relationship: people move to the parish for the schools, the growing population is attractive to businesses looking to relocate and employ a growing labor force. An increase in businesses creates more sales tax revenue, which, thanks to a dedicated 2.5-cent sales tax, helps fund the school system.

“We are here today because of our schools,” Livingston Parish Clerk of Court Tommy Sullivan said.

Sales tax revenue in Livingston Parish has jumped from $56 million in 2005-06 to $87 million in 2014-15, which Erdey attributes to the success of the Bass Pro Shops development, which is one of 265 businesses that opened in the parish between 2005 and 2009, as well as the more recent Juban Crossing development.

The sales tax base is expected to continue to grow, as the number of commercial building permits has increased since 2010 and developers move into phase two of both Juban Crossing and the 160-acre Bass Pro Shops development that is still only halfway completed.  

There is still 450,000 square feet of vacant land south of Bass Pro that could be developed into retail, commercial and restaurant space, said Joe Moore, commercial division director of RE/MAX in Baton Rouge. There are also plans to build a Marriott TownePlace Suites next to the Sam’s Club adjacent to Bass Pro, and Rickey Heroman’s Florists and Firehouse Subs are set to anchor the 44,000-square-foot Riverside Landing center planned on Bass Pro Boulevard.

On the residential side of the market, Covington said Livingston Parish has improved considerably over the last 15 years, resulting in a shortage of residential lots in the parish. In addition, the number of days a home spends on the market has dropped and the price of homes per square foot has jumped.

He added that they used to see a lot of growth in the west end of the parish and along Interstate 12 and U.S. 190. Now, the growth is scattered across the parish thanks to plentiful land, a low crime rate and a solid education system.

The rural parts of the parish contain 82% of the parish’s population. The number of housing permits issued across the parish grew between 2006 to 2009, before dropping in 2010 and then growing again steadily in every year since.

“We are now blessed with a really balanced market in Livingston Parish,” Covington said.

According to the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors, home sales and new listings were up this July compared to last year each by 6% and 7%, respectively. In a year-to-date comparison of 2014 and 2015, new listings are up 6%, closed sales are up 11% and the median sales price is up 5% from $157,300 to $164,900.

Sullivan said one indicator of a house market’s health is the number of sheriff’s foreclosure sales. From 2011 to 2015, sheriff’s sales have gone down 38%.

“The news is good. You have opportunities to continue the growth,” Sullivan said.

—Ryan Broussard

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