Cokethia Goodman sits in her living room, her belongings piled high behind her.
A lukewarm breeze blows a bit of cool air in through the partially open screen door.
Goodman is perched on a metal folding chair, surveying her surroundings, and shaking her head at the prospect of moving from her rental home—a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Southwest Atlanta she has lived in for less than a year.
“It’s very depressing,” said Goodman, 49. “I’ve been here a year. I wanted to stay. It’s hard to keep moving all the time.”
Separated from her husband of five years, Goodman has six children under the age of 15, as well as several adult children who stop by her house often to see how she’s doing.
With less than two weeks to move, she has a lot on her plate right now.
“It started when I got a notice in the mail that my landlord was not renewing my lease,” Goodman said. “I had six weeks to find a new place.
“The hardest part is that I have to take my kids out of school and find new schools for them. It’s hard on them.”
But Goodman has been through worse.
“We were homeless for a while before we found this place,” she revealed. “We lived in a hotel for about five months. We had a refrigerator and a microwave, but no stove. We ate noodles a lot, we ate fast food, whatever we could.”
Goodman found her current residence, squarely positioned where Grant Park and Peoplestown neighborhoods meet, through sheer luck and timing.
“I was driving through this neighborhood and I saw a guy working on this house,” she explained. “I talked to him and found out the owner was looking for a tenant.”
So Goodman and company moved into the home in an as-is condition, even though the house needed some work.
Goodman recently received a letter to her home, likely intended for the property owner, from a local Atlanta “fine homes” investor who is looking, “for specific properties in the…neighborhood. …with the following characteristics:
- Single Family Residences
- Properties that have NOT been renovated.
- Clear Title
The letter goes on to state that “investors will pay cash, will close quickly, and save you the hassle of multiple showings.”
Goodman says that in the year since she has moved to her current home, single-family residences up and down her street have been renovated and sold for upwards of $450,000.
“This street is full of older homes that are being rehabbed and sold for huge prices or being rented for two or three times what I’m paying. This whole area is changing.
“I will miss the neighborhood,” she admitted. “but I don’t have any other choice.”
This time, Goodman said she is looking for housing further outside the city.
After starting with a Google search and narrowing her choices down to a few preferred neighborhoods, she said she drove around hoping to find a place that might work for her and her family.
She said she found a place she thinks might work, but she is still trying to come up with the money it will take to move.
“I found a place in Forest Park,” Goodman said. “I met with the owner and he saw my interest. He’s willing to let me move in, but it’s all about the money.”
“There’s enough space for my kids and me…but he wants $2000 and says he’s not budging on that figure. I think [if] I can get up to $1,800. I hope he accepts it and lets me pay the rest along with my rent.”
Goodman started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money she needs, but with only a few weeks before her lease is up, she is worried her family will run out of time.
Click any of the photos or Click here to donate directly to Cokethia Goodman’s GoFundMe.
The challenge for Goodman is her past rental history and less than stellar credit.
Goodman said she believes she would be considered high risk for traditional rental situations, such as a standard apartment complex, and many do not have the space to accommodate her family.
She also has two evictions on her record, and, although she’s not certain of her credit score, her guess is that it’s probably on the low side.
“I have to find a private landlord who is willing to work with me,” Goodman said. “Right now I’m missing work because I have to find a place to live. It’s just a really rough time for us.”
Goodman’s dream, like so many others in the middle- and low-income brackets in Atlanta is to find a home of her own.
“I wish I could buy a house,” she says. “I just want to be someplace nice, someplace that feels like a home. I’ve been hoping to find a rent-to-own situation, but that’s hard to do. I just wish I could be settled, and not have to keep moving all the time and taking my kids out of school.
More than anything, I wish I could be settled and at peace.”
Look for updates on Goodman in a future UP WITH ATL story.
For a different perspective on the Atlanta housing market, come back next week.
We will be interviewing well known Atlanta “home flippers” looking to profit from renovating homes like the one Goodman and her family is vacating. Contact us if you’d like to contribute.
Do you know anyone else struggling to find affordable housing in Atlanta, GA? Tell us in the comments section, on social media, or through email.