Nonprofit Frayser Community Development Corp. (CDC) is one of a number of local agencies that have started redevelopment work in the MLK Zone, centering on the area around MLK Prep and Frayser Achievement Elementary. Last week, the groups celebrated the completed renovation of a once-blighted home in the area, and more rehab work on other homes is already underway.
Frayser CDC acquires severely blighted houses, restores them and then sells or rents them. All in all, the company has renovated and/or built 140 homes in Frayser, and it owns and manages 118 homes in the community. Currently it possesses five houses that are in various stages of production in the MLK Zone.
The first completed house of the five at 1538 Childers is a 1,250-square-foot home with hardwood floors that had been abandoned for nearly a decade.
“The city helped us take this to environmental court under Tennessee Neighborhood Preservation Act, and the court appointed us the receiver of the property,” said Frayser CDC Executive Director Steve Lockwood, who estimates that the company has now invested $65,000 in repairs to the property.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland was on hand to talk about how projects like this tie in with the city’s Blight Initiative as well as efforts to combat crime.
Lockwood points to recent CDC’s research that strongly shows a correlation between its housing investments and increased property values and reduced crime.
“My favorite thing is to take total dogs and fix them up. I don’t think it’s good for the neighborhood to tear them down because it that happen we will have a vacant lot there for the next 20 years, in our opinion,” he said Lockwood. “So one of the things we’re trying to show is that these properties are worth fixing. ”
Frayser CDC also offers free homebuyer education counseling, foreclosure counseling and financial literacy counseling.
“Our dilemmas are several fold in terms of selling houses to people in Frayser: 1) the banks have not wanted to loan here, and 2) the typical buyer can’t qualify for a loan,” said Lockwood, who explained that Frayser CDC investigates special down payment assistance and credit enhancements for potential buyers.
Habitat for Humanity has started a program in the same MLK area assisting existing home owners with making home improvements.
Other organizations working to revitalize the MLK Zone include Lifeline to Success, the Memphis Police Department, Pursuit of God Church, and Girls’ Inc.