Organization targets Frayser blight by fixing up homes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- One non-profit organization in Frayser is finding that by investing in fixing up abandoned and blighted homes, criminals are moving out and property values are going up.

"There's no question that blighted properties draw crime," said Steve Lockwood, executive director for the Frayser Community Development Corporation (CDC). "When you eliminate them, it helps eliminate crime."

Five years ago, the CDC started buying and fixing up homes in Grandview North – what it calls a "tipping point" neighborhood – and one they thought could be "tipped back" into a healthy one.

"If you fix up the houses nicely, people will live in them," Lockwood said.

Using a $1,000,000 grant from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, the CDC bought and fixed up 18 blighted homes, bringing more renters in, sending criminals packing and raising property values for surrounding homes.

"The house across the street there, they totally remodeled it and people moved in it," said renter Ruby Malone.

The house she now calls home was empty for years before she moved in last fall.

"Since we’ve been here, we never have had any problems," she said. "I haven't seen anything unusual. So far, it's real quiet and the neighbors seem friendly."

The CDC often spends more fixing up the properties then they're worth once they're done, but Lockwood says it's an investment worth making.

"If you spend $50,000 on a house that's worth $47,000, you've by far made your money back by increasing the value of the surrounding houses," he said.

Out of those 18 homes the CDC renovated, only one remains empty.

The program has been so successful, Lockwood says other investors are following suit.

"We get beat to the houses a lot and other people are fixing them instead of us," he said, "which is fine with us."