Homeowners hopeful law students can help with blight issues

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Boarded up windows and beat up homes are an all too familiar sight in Memphis. Now law students are helping the city take action against lazy landowners.

Kaneesha Hammond can see three of blighted properties from her front porch in North Memphis.

"This is my first time staying somewhere where there are a lot of boarded up houses," she said.

Hammond said she feels safe where she is, but wishes the city or the homeowners would do something. Blighted properties are known to attract crime and even gang violence, things no one wants to see happen in their backyard.

Daniel Schaffzin with the University of Memphis law school said, "It affects the values of the property around it, and the morale of the neighborhood."

Schaffzin understands why people get impatient. He says the process takes a long time, and it can seem like nothing is happening. The most time-consuming part of all this is tracking down the land owners.

"You can't bring a property into court without bringing its owner into court," he said.

He says law students are teaming up with the city attorney's office to prosecute these cases. He says they have the time to help flush out the very complicated cases.

Until a judge gives it the official title of public nuisance to the property, the city can't do anything about it.

Once the case gets to court, they will work with the landowners to turn the property around.

Hammond is trying to stay positive, and hopes this new partnership will help crack down on a real problem facing Memphians every day.

"Sometimes you have to give people a chance, and give people time," she said.

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