Many Memphis communities — Crosstown, Binghampton and the University District to name a few — have seen big booms in housing and business development in the last decade.
Frayser's progress has been more quiet rumble than boom. Community leaders, government entities and nonprofit organizations have worked to stabilize what has been called the "foreclosure capital of Tennessee"
and are now turning their sights towards growth.
Frayser CDC notes that foreclosures have slowed, owner-occupancy has increased and home values have risen in recent years.
On July 13th, Frayser CDC unveiled three newly constructed homes near the corner of Whitney and Woodland Terrace. The three-bedroom, two-bath houses will be listed at $88,000 and are symbolic of Frayser's modest rebound.
“People want these new houses,” said Larry Alexander of Remax Realtors at the event. “When this hits the market people will be lined up to buy them.”
“I know that this will help this whole community as far as property values,” said Cecil Jones, who bought a remodeled home from Frayser CDC in November and attended the July 13 open house. “I wish I would have waited and got one of these.”
Guests of the Frayser CDC open house celebration ate Crutchfields Bar-B-Q and mingled in the shade. Behind them, two of the three newly built houses were open for tours. (Cole Bradley)
Frayser has 45,000 residents with a range of incomes and housing needs, and Steve Lockwood, executive director of Frayser CDC, said there's demand for new, moderately priced, single-family homes. There's also plenty of vacant plots to build on within existing neighborhoods.
“We’re trying to raise up housing values in the neighborhood. We’re trying to increase home ownership. People really like new houses so it helps us raise home ownership by building new houses," said Lockwood.
These are the first new homes built by Frayser CDC in 10 years, and the occasion was marked by tours of the properties, games for children, free barbecue served by Crutchfields Bar-B-Q, music from 101.1 FM and a speech by Memphis City Mayor Jim Strickland.
The homes are part of an initiative by the Frayser CDC to build 10 new homes in the area by the end of the year. The City of Memphis is the primary financial partner and additional support came from NeighborWorks America. Three more homes will break ground by the end of August.
The project is a proof of concept that the partners hope will attract new investors when they see successful sales. The CDC plans to bring its own total to 30 new houses over the next two years.
"Long-term we’re just trying to specifically improve the housing market and more generally just bring new investment into the neighborhood," said Lockwood.
Two of the three new homes at the corner of Whitney and Woodland Terrace were on display for the July 13 open house. (Cole Bradley)
According to the CDC, the average Frayser home sells for just under $40,000 and 11 percent of houses sit vacant.
Founded in 2000, Frayser CDC has focused primarily on renovating existing homes for both buyers and renters. According to its website, it's rehabilitated more than 195 homes and sold or rented more than 200 in Frayser.
They've also helped 2,000 households with financial literacy and pathways to homeowners through home buyer education and pre-purchase, mortgage default, loss mitigation and rental counseling.
“[Homeownership] stabilizes families," said Lockwood. "Their kids live in the same house for years. They go to the same grade school year after year. It’s good on a whole bunch of levels.”
The CDC hopes for payments on the homes to be around $600 a month, including taxes and insurance, and offers down-payment assistance for interested buyers. More information can be found at fraysercdc.org.
“In general, buying in Frayser is far cheaper than renting in Frayser or anywhere else,” said Lockwood. “Our slogan for years has been ‘Don’t rent for $700, buy it for $480.’”
Guests share a laugh at the Frayser CDC open house. The homes they toured are three-bedroom, two-bath and will be listed at $88,000. (Cole Bradley)
“If anybody wanted to buy one of these houses from the Frayser CDC, I would recommend that, no doubt,” said Jones. “They will help you get the house and get you everything that you need. And it may be a process, but it’s a process that’s well worth it.”