Housing is still a priority in “Home Town”

October 23, 2023

On Wednesday, October 4, Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee and Parks and Recreation Director Elvin Ulmer met with the current class of Leadership Jones County to discuss quality of life issues in the City Beautiful.

Mayor Magee, a member of one of the program’s first graduating classes, talked about how the program helped him decide to take on a larger role in public service. At the time, he was working at the post office and noticed abandoned homes in his neighborhood that were poorly maintained. He asked the city to step in to take care of the properties and didn’t get a positive response. He decided to be proactive and take on the issue himself. He asked for a leave of absence from work so that he could run for city council. It was denied. So, he quit. “I had to win, because I didn’t have a job,” he said. The stakes were high, but he knew that his community could be better and that he was dedicated to seeing that happen. Not only did he win, he went on to serve on the council for 16 years and to serve four terms as council president before being elected mayor in 2013.

Today, the lots that launched his career into public service are now “well maintained green spaces” he told the class. However, dealing with dilapidated and abandoned buildings, fixing poorly maintained residences, and addressing problems with access to affordable housing still rank high on the city’s priority list.

And progress is being made.

For example, throughout the spring and summer of this year, the City of Laurel celebrated progress in completing projects in the Homeowner Rehabilitation program. Each year, the city can apply for up to $550,000 in grant funding through Mississippi Home Corporation’s Homeowner Rehabilitation program which provides funding for new builds and renovations for qualifying homeowners.

The City of Laurel and Housing Grant Administrator La’Keylah White have been working on bringing those funds to the residents of Laurel for the last several years.  Once the city has received the funding and started the projects, they must complete all of the funded projects before reapplying for the grant.  The City of Laurel is currently finishing up a slate of six projects and will, therefore, be eligible to reapply for the funding again soon. The current projects had been in progress for several years as completion was delayed as a result of the pandemic.

Barbara Gray’s home was the second home of the six in this year’s cycle to be completed and the event was celebrated with a ribbon cutting at her home on East 12th Street.

In June, the Jones County Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Magee, and guests visited Gray to celebrate the renovations to the Jim Walter home that she has lived in since it was built in 1999. Gray,72, was most excited about having her bathroom renovated to include a walk-in bathtub that will reduce her risk of falling.

“The city is always looking for ways to help homeowners,” Mayor Magee said. During the ceremony, he also signed and presented Gray with a proclamation to declare the month of June as Home Ownership Month in the City of Laurel.

A  video of the event can be found on the Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page at


Also during the month of June, the Laurel Housing Authority celebrated the rebuilding of Triangle Homes. Triangle Homes is a set of public housing units that were originally built in 1938. In 2019, the Laurel Housing Authority decided to move residents from those units, demolish most of the existing structures, and rebuild them. The 18-million-dollar project began in 2019 and was completed in 2021. Triangle Homes provides 124 housing units to over 230 residents.

The open house was held to celebrate the completion of the project as well as the unveiling of a historical marker at the site. The housing units were originally built in 1938 and were some of the first public housing units in the state. Because of this, a portion of the original 1938 structure was preserved for historical purposes. Triangle Homes is one of many properties managed by the Laurel Housing Authority who works help residents find affordable housing and move toward self-sufficiency.

A video of the event can be found on the Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page at


More recently, Mayor Magee also encouraged the efforts of private sector investments into providing safe, affordable, housing.

On Friday, September 8th, Tracy House of House Property Group, LLC joined the Jones County Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Magee to break ground on a new solution to the housing issue.

House purchased a lot on West 23rd Street to create a two apartment 1,800 square foot duplex. “This is a true ground up investment in the City of Laurel and we thank you for that,” Chris Tullos of the Chamber of Commerce said.

House explained that providing housing in the community has been a dream of his for many years. “My father had a rental house,” he explained. “Investment property is in my blood.” Once completed, the duplex will feature two apartments which will each have 900 square feet of living space including two bedrooms, a full kitchen, and a full bath.

House stated that he has plans for expansion and is looking forward to helping people in the community fine a place to call home. Mayor Magee thanked House for his investment in the area and congratulated him on the occasion.

A video of the event can be found on the Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page at


Work in both the public and private sector is being done to provide safe, affordable housing in the City Beautiful and it looks like that trend is set to continue.

More photos can be found on the City's Facebook page at City of Laurel_ Government or on our Instagram page at Laurel_MS

The City of Laurel, established as a lumber town in 1882, is conveniently situated approximately two hours from larger destination cities such as Jackson, Biloxi, New Orleans, and Mobile. In recent years, the city has become a destination all its own thanks, in part, to its starring role in HGTV’s popular “Hometown” series. As Laurel, and interest in it, continues to grow, we are committed to providing the resources necessary to help all of our residents and businesses reach their full potential.
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