Community Voices: Ebony Ford

Historic Westside resident Ebony Ford shares about her experience with the Anti-Displacement Tax Fund (ADTF) program in our latest Community Voices series. Continue reading to learn more about what Ford loves about the Westside and how, though the ADTF program, she will be able to call it home for years to come.

To sum it up succinctly, living on the Westside of Atlanta has changed the course of my life. Because of my zip code, I qualify for free training, financial planning, mortgage down payment assistance, and, most monumental of all, the Westside Future Fund (WFF) tax abatement program. Because of this glorious program, which has to date approved more than 100 families for benefits, I am still living in the home I bought more than a decade ago. You see, my taxes increased 500% in 2018. WFF paid that increase, and will continue to pay the increase for 20 years. And the taxes will most definitely continue to rise in the years to come. All of the progress you see happening on the Westside is beautiful and exciting, but it is also very expensive. Expenses that would usually be handed over to homeowners. What does all of this mean to a homeowner on the westside of Atlanta, specifically in the neighborhoods of Ashview Heights, AUC, English Avenue and Vine City, areas with some of the poorest residents in the entire city? It means that my family and others like it will be able to stay in the homes that tax increases might have otherwise displaced us from. We were here when the “Bluff” wasn’t doing so well. It was a cold, dark place, 20, 10, heck, even five years ago. But now the clouds are parting, the sun is shining through and us legacy homeowners will be here to bask in some of that warmth thanks to WFF.

Rodney Cook, Sr. Park. YMCA regional headquarters. Spur of the Westside Beltline trail. These are just a few of the awesome things coming to the Westside. The neighborhoods are coming to life right before our eyes, abuzz with multiple large construction projects – and the city is starting to take notice. The Westside of Atlanta is the last chance for purchasing an intown home at an affordable price. And while we welcome newcomers into our neighborhoods, we don’t think it should come at the price of legacy owners being pushed out. I imagine the people who are moving in now are not shocked by the property taxes of their potential homes on the Westside of Atlanta. After all, to them, it would not be considered an increase. But for the residents who’ve been here a long time, the tax increases are not only shocking, they’re prohibitively expensive. Residents who “paid their dues”, if you will, living in Westside neighborhoods for decades are having to sell their homes just when things are making a turn for the better. This is the plight of the typical homeowner in my neighborhood, and it’s sad to see, especially since this situation usually affects some of the most vulnerable citizens of our population: the young, the old and the poor.

WFF is quite literally the key to the future, and so much more, for these homeowners. The organization coordinates with other Westside initiatives to provide a full array of life-altering services in addition to the tax abatement program. WFF outreach efforts are applaudable. They get the word out about their programs by mail, e-mail, online and door-to-door marketing. WFF’s commitment to legacy owners is palpable, as the very name of the organization has become synonymous with hope and promise.

There have been many false starts of revitalization of Westside communities in the past few decades, and many broken promises. It is my belief that now, this time, is the real thing. I can imagine that there was pushback in the past from legacy homeowners who felt threatened by the possibility of gentrification, and that might have impeded progress. Now, with WFF fighting with and for the underrepresented citizens of this area, progress will prevail. WFF has the trust of the Westside community, and we will all benefit from it. The Westside is truly on the rise.

Reprinted from the Atlanta Business Chronicle Westside Market Report 2019.