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At long last, firm buys “uninhabitable” Southside apartments, gears up for rehab

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Forest Cove, a notoriously dilapidated Southside Atlanta apartment complex, has finally changed hands, signaling the start of a multi-million-dollar revival that longtime tenants hope will make the community livable once again. 

Built in the 1970s, the development had been falling apart for years — even before property manager Millennia Housing Management (MHM) took control in 2017 — and had become an eyesore in the Thomasville Heights neighborhood. 

On Tuesday, though, owner Global Ministries Foundation (GMF), which bought the property in 2014, handed the keys over to MHM, as part of a roughly $250 million deal that will ultimately put the former’s entire, nationwide Section 8 housing portfolio into the latter’s holdings, GMF CEO Richard Hamlet told Atlanta Civic Circle.

Residents, citing disrepair, rodents, roaches and mold, have called it “uninhabitable.” Finalization of the property’s sale marks the beginning of an extensive relocation process, which will ideally have tenants moved into nearby residences that would allow the complex’s children to stay in the same schools and professionals to maintain access to their jobs.

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

First, Millennia, together with relocation partners, will host small group resident meetings to review the relocation and development plans,” MHM spokeswoman Valerie Jerome told Atlanta Civic Circle. “Next, a relocation specialist will meet with each head of household to discuss individual needs and housing options. Relocation partners will use information from the assessment to identify offsite housing locations.”

Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation director Michael Lucas told Atlanta Civic Circle last week that his nonprofit intends to monitor the relocation efforts “to make sure every tenant that wants to return can do so.”

MHM aims to restore Forest Cove to the tune of more than $40 million, with each of the community’s nearly 400 rentals demanding upwards of $100,000 worth of work to bring them up to par, company plans suggest. Hamlet previously said, “The thing doesn’t need a Band-Aid; we need surgery.”

A rendering of what Forest Cove could look like after the planned overhaul. (Credit: Millennia Housing Management)

Jerome said families will be able to return to their former homes in waves, as construction crews make their way through the dilapidated complex. 

Forest Cove, of course, is far from the only problematic development aching for a bit — or a lot — of elbow grease; more than a few intown properties sit blighted — and often vacant — especially on Atlanta’s Southside and Westside. 

So, local officials like Atlanta City Councilwoman Carla Smith are pushing legislation that could crack down on the owners of properties that violate the city’s housing code. 

Smith’s latest pitch, drafted at the behest of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ administration, would make it easier for the city to foreclose on such properties and demand owners either fix up and sell their assets as affordable housing or relinquish them to city control — and then get turned into affordable housing by Invest Atlanta. 

(Header image, via Apartments.com: The Forest Cove apartments, on Atlanta’s Southside, have been falling apart for years.)

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