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'Citywide, it's a major issue' | New leader of Blight Authority of Memphis excited for revitalization efforts

The organization acquires abandoned homes and vacant properties for affordable housing redevelopment projects.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There's a new leader with a new vision for tackling Memphis' decades old blight fight. 

Michael Harris is now executive director of the Blight Authority of Memphis. The organization acquires abandoned properties and eyesore lots for redevelopment.

Harris laid out what he describes as bold and audacious goals in the months ahead to revitalize neighborhoods.

"Citywide it's a major issue that needs to be addressed," Harris said.

Whether it's homes which are a shell of their former selves, abandoned buildings or overgrown lots, blight impacts most sections of Memphis in some way. 

"These aren't just the ones with illegal dumping. These are the ones that are vacant lots or homes that have been boarded up," Harris said. 

He wants to change that and give neglected streets new life and hope.

"We want to take these properties and we want to put them back into economic opportunity, put them back on the tax roll," Harris said.

Harris is honed in on hundreds of available lots that are either donated or available through the City of Memphis or Shelby County land bank. He wants to acquire at least 30 properties each month for redevelopment, and said the idea project would transform neglected lots into affordable housing, concentrated on a few nearby streets.

"There are so many communities in need of support and are in need of resources," Harris said. "That could truly change the trajectory for a neighborhood."

Harris is also crystal clear: when considering where to revamp abandoned properties, local developers and not out-of-state investors get first priority.

"If you are a Memphis group, you are first dibs in my opinion. The ill-intentioned investors. as what I Iike to call them, I don't want to do business with you," Harris said.

Staff at the Blight Authority of Memphis will also constantly evaluate approved redevelopment projects to improve future bids on other available blighted properties.

Blight Authority of Memphis is excited to announce the appointment of Michael O. Harris as our new executive director,...

Posted by Blight Authority of Memphis on Thursday, August 4, 2022

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