Cleaning Up Blight In Memphis Costing Big Bucks

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(Memphis) Keeping yards in tip-top shape is what Albert Banks does in his off time, "It's about $35 for a regular yard. On a corner lot it's a but $50. That's how much I charge.".

But a few doors down, nobody is paying to keep things clean.

Abandoned houses have become a big eye sore.

In many cases, the city has to come in and do the work.

A new partnership between the City of Memphis and the Memphis Area Association of Realtors and the Memphis Area Home Builders Association has  landed a $25,000 grant that will help.

But  it's a drop in the bucket.

"It cost about $150 to cut grass one time at one property and in these vacant homes they're going out multiple times every single year and there are 9,000 on the list. So you do the math. It's a lot of money," says Aubrie Kobernus with the Memphis Area Association of Realtors.

It could be more than 8-million dollars.

City officials say that's pretty accurate, considering the shape of some properties.

"Most of them range between $50 and $150, certainly for the initial cut. We keep it on the low-end once you get pass that first cut," says Onzie Horne Deputy Director of Community Enhancement for the City of Memphis.

The city sets an hourly rate and  hires several independent contractors .

The cost is passed on to the property owner.
If the property owner doesn't pay, then there is a lien on the property.

But those initial clean-up dollars come from the city.

It's why there is a push to get property owners to do the right thing.

Jerry Hill wishes more of them would step up.

He keeps his South Memphis home in shape but has to look at constant blight across the street.

"It makes your property depreciate.  I asked the guy when he was gonna re-model his property or tear it down, he didn't have no comment," says Hill.

Horne says the cost of clean-up gets more expensive if the property hasn't been cleaned in a long time.

That's why  there is a push to get on top of a lot of the blight.

But with all the properties going into foreclosure, combined with a tight budget, that too will take time.