Frayser Community Development Council increasing sustainable homeownership in Memphis

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Ian Preston

Housing and Community Development Fellow

Master’s Candidate, City and Regional Planning

University of Memphis

Frayser Community Development Corporation has swiftly welcomed me as their intern for my HCD placement this year. Although our staff knows that every individual should aspire to live out their own “American Dream,” we believe that homeownership is an essential and significant part of any dream. We provide financial literacy classes and counseling to families and residents of Frayser who want to own their own homes. By working closely with community members and families, we can help provide a healthy lifestyle, which includes understanding the important financial matters that accompany owning a home. Frayser CDC also seeks grants from the City of Memphis to pay tax arrears that have accumulated on vacant or abandoned homes. In doing so, we can obtain these houses, fix them up, and give a family or resident a proper place to live for an affordable payment plan. Frayser CDC has secured more than 70 homes for Frayser community members over the years.

Over the past couple of months, I have been out in the neighborhoods surveying property conditions. The City of Memphis has provided me with a list of all the properties in our study area that they deem in need of demolition. Some of these judgment calls, however, fail to account for some physical aspects of houses that may make them salvageable. For example, a structurally sound property with a good roof and interior should not be knocked down just because there is peeling paint or broken shutters. I have been trained by our staff to consider all of these physical elements to determine whether we can save these houses. If we can, we may be able to obtain them from the City and help a new family move into it. This physical interaction in the community is exactly the type of work that is necessary for understanding the issues that we hope to address on a day-to-day basis. It is also necessary for presenting accurate data and experience with the City of Memphis for implementing appropriate policies and change. With the help of a new parcel data software, I am able to post photographs and descriptions of the current conditions of all properties within Frayser. In doing so, staff members and city officials may have constant access to current inventory of all Frayser properties. I am the first intern at Frayser to have access to this type of resource and I am confident that it will aid our office and surrounding community.