City's 'Mow to Own' program struggles to take root

City's 'Mow to Own' program struggles to take root
Published: Jul. 18, 2018 at 1:53 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2018 at 5:39 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It seemed too good to be true.

Sick of the weeds and overgrown weeds next door? Just mow it, and the city would just sell it to you at a reasonable price.

That was the promise city officials made when they rolled out the "Mow to Own" program

But more than two years later, we found out not a lot of people are taking the city up on their offer.

Memphis has a blight problem, and upkeep of these properties was expensive. So, the city made a promise that if you mow it, you can own it.

Less than 20 people have signed up.

We showed these numbers to City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd, the author of this program, and he said maybe it's time to tweak it.

It's not attracting the mass number of people like they planned, and those who are in the program were already doing it.

Hattie Thompson has been cutting a vacant lot on the hill for 20 years – well, at least her son has.

But It was two years ago when she and her son decided to stop mowing for free and signed up for the City's "Mow to Own" program.

"They said I had to do it for 3 years, then it would be mine," Thompson said.

Turns out Thompson is a member of a very exclusive club, and only 16 other people have signed up for the program.

The program has been around for two-and-a-half years.

"Well, I think it's a partial success," Boyd said. "I think going forward after discovering the numbers I think we just need to bring more awareness and attention to the program."

Here's how it works. You have to live adjacent to the vacant lot, pay a $175 application fee, mow the lawn for up to three years, and voila – you can purchase the property at a discounted price.

But turns out many find out it's not always that easy.

"Some lots don't qualify because some of them aren't city-owned or it's not on the tax sale list," Boyd said.

However, Boyd said there are plenty of vacant lots that do qualify and said maybe now is the time to take a second look at the program.

After all, the program was created to help neighbors like Thompson fight blight and take back their neighborhood

"Because we live in South Memphis, and we want to keep it South Memphis," Thompson said.

Boyd said he's looking into expanding the mow to own program to a "grow to own" program, using the vacant lots for community gardens.

If you're curious to know if the property next door to you qualifies for the program, call the Shelby County Land Bank first.

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