A group of southside Atlanta residents is up in arms over what they see as negligence that’s left their apartment community blighted and “uninhabitable.”

For about four years, Ohio-based Millennia Housing Management (MHM) has been in control of the 396-unit Forest Cove public housing development, but it’s owned by the Global Ministries Foundation (GMF). During that time, residents say, the complex has fallen apart and been infested with rats, cockroaches, mold and mildew.

“MHM claims that it intends to purchase and rehabilitate the property,” according to a news release from advocacy group Housing Justice League. “However, the process has been moving at a snail’s pace while residents continue to live in uninhabitable units.”

Last week, Housing Justice League activists launched an online petition, calling for MHM and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to expedite Forest Cove’s sale and restoration. 

“No one from Millennia or HUD has been able to explain in concrete terms why the projected closing date keeps shifting, delaying the renovation and temporary relocation of residents as a result,” the petition says. “Forest Cove residents have had enough.”

The petition demands that HUD speed up the “pass-through leasing process,” which is when a property’s operational expenses, such as maintenance costs, are passed on from the landlord to the tenants. “We want the process to begin in no more than 60 days,” the page says. 

The Housing Justice League is also calling for the affordable rent prices to remain after renovations are complete and that standard grounds-keeping and other maintenance services get underway immediately. 

The group also included scathing testimonials from tenants in the petition.

“There are a lot of rats; we get roaches; we get mold, mildew,” said Valarie Wimby, who’s lived at Forest Cove for more than four decades. “My next-door neighbor,” she added, “the wood is all rotten. Piles of trash lay out in the walkway. The buildings [look] condemned. I’ve seen it all, and by the grace of God, I’m still here.”

Another resident, Marchella Heard, said her time at the complex has been “horrific.” “My kids can’t play outside,” she said. “The floor is caving in; the walls are coming down; my apartment is falling down around me.”

An MHM representative assured Atlanta Civic Circle that the sale is moving forward, although the company has not yet announced a timeline for the project.

“The rehabilitation will bring the apartments up to modern standards and preserve 396 units of affordable housing for years to come,” MHM said in a statement. “Every unit will remain subsidized and continue to serve families with lower incomes.”

Officials with GMF and HUD did not respond to ACC’s phone and email inquiries, and this story will be updated as further information is provided.

This story was updated on Feb. 23, 2021 at 4:15 p.m. to include a statement from MHM.

(Header image, via Google Maps: Windows are boarded up at the Forest Cove apartments, even though people still live there.)