First Person: Putting down deeper roots
By Angel Poventud
I’ve lived in Atlanta for the past 14 years. I started getting involved with all aspects of the community by planting trees with Trees Atlanta. I visited neighborhoods, met neighbors, saw how each neighborhood fit in with the other neighborhoods and how they were disconnected from one another.
Our surface roads, interstates and the rail road system are all ways our neighborhood are physically disconnected from one another, but we also disconnect ourselves from each other by not exploring our great city.
I started exploring our city on bike going back to visit the trees I was planting, checking on them, pruning them, saving them on occasion from kudzu and ivy. Over time, Southwest Atlanta became one of my favorite bike routes, having an amazing tree canopy, an active street life, great parks and a path system and bike lanes.
I started looking for a house and I wanted to find something close to the BeltLine. I was looking in the Old 4th Ward just before the new park opened up. The moment that park opened everything in the neighborhood disappeared from the price range I was looking for. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I wanted to get something I could fix up over time with my railroad income.
I was looking all over the city but my friends and now neighbors in Adair Park alerted me to a vacant house that fronted Adair Park and backed up to the BeltLine. I couldn’t believe such a house could be found and I made the decision to buy it at the basement price of $14,200.
After just a few weeks of home ownership the back log of code enforcement issues with the house found there way to me. I was given two weeks to get the house into compliance. The house had been abandon for at least 10 years and I would later discover it needed $130,000 worth of rehab, but city code enforcement didn’t care. After a week of three to five phone calls a day, I was given an extension of 10 day to get the house into compliance.
Luckily, the Adair Park neighborhood stepped it up when I put out a cry for help on Facebook and stopped code enforcement in their tracks by getting City Councilmember Michael Julian Bonds’ office involved. Kristina Garcia-Bunuel in his office has been an amazing ally at the city stopping code enforcement twice now giving me the breathing room to keep the house project going strong.
After talking to no less than 20 banks and credit unions, Wells Fargo came through with a HUD loan for the house. It took six months of paper work and the loan amount is only $99,000 as a result of the appraisal for the house post construction. I also interviewed nine contractors, with four serious bids all coming in the $130′s.
I am now at the point where the bank, the city, and the contractor are all ready to move forward with making the house a home and I am still faced with a budget gap of $20,000 to make the house a reality. After a lot of pressure from friends, I decided to move foreword with a crowd funding solution to fill the money gap and launched an Indiegogo fundraiser on-line (www.indiegogo.com/angelshouse). The response has been great. In just a few weeks, 2,000 people have visited the site and 100 people have given 5,000, so I’m on the way.
I should probably mention that I had also taken a 33 percent pay cut at work while training to become a freight train engineer for CSX railroad after working as a conductor for the past seven years. The timing was hard, but great but the opportunity to learn a new skill and to finally be the guy that gets to blow the horn for little kids is pretty incredible.
My training has ended, permits are issued and construction has started on the house. I can only thank my neighbors and the greater city for getting me to this point. I would love your help in making it the rest of the way. I want this house to be a place for the community to meet and nurture dialogue, as well as for people to come and meet artists.
Thank you Atlanta.