Millennia Housing Management and the city of Atlanta are restarting resident relocation efforts from scratch for the Forest Cove apartments, which were condemned almost three months ago, Atlanta Civic Circle has learned.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens convened Millennia and top officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA) last week to expedite a plan to relocate the remaining 211 tenants living in the deteriorated Section 8 complex, city officials told Atlanta Civic Circle.
Dickens’ office has allocated an unspecified amount of funds to cover all moving expenses and fees needed to hold new units available for Forest Cove residents, while HUD will allow their Section 8 vouchers to transfer, and Millennia will reimburse the city, according to the proposal.
A group of local nonprofits, also not yet specified, will again be tasked with identifying suitable housing for the tenants and helping them relocate, according to the city officials.
When Millennia bought the long-neglected Section 8 complex almost a year ago, the developer announced that it would temporarily relocate the over 200 remaining households, so it could rehabilitate the site. It enlisted local nonprofits, including Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, APD Urban Planning and Management, and Housing Justice League, to help tenants find housing that would accept Section 8 vouchers.
But a December condemnation order “halted the relocation process,” Millennia spokesperson Valerie Jerome told Atlanta Civic Circle earlier this month. An Atlanta judge gave Millennia a March 1 deadline to relocate residents and until Sept. 22 to raze the 396-unit complex. However, the developer has appealed, which paused the deadlines.
Dickens announced in February that the city’s public housing authority had identified 170 available city-owned apartments for Forest Cove renters, but Atlanta Housing’s CEO Eugene Jones said last week that those units “may not match the need,” because dozens are only one-bedrooms, and so unsuitable for families.
Millennia estimated it would cost over $9 million to relocate the 211 remaining tenants, as part of its initial plan to spend over $56 million to rehabilitate the 396-unit complex. But the DCA in January denied its application for tax credits to finance the project, which Millennia executives said made the rehabilitation unfeasible.
If Millennia has no option but to demolish and rebuild the property — which its executives have acknowledged may be the only way forward — it could be several years before Forest Cove tenants could return.
Meanwhile, young children living at Forest Cove, who make up the majority of Thomasville Heights Elementary’s student body, are already set to be rezoned to a different district at the end of the school year and Thomasville Heights will close. Millennia and the city need to act fast to keep those students from bouncing from school to school unnecessarily.
City officials say they’re still searching for additional homes for the community’s residents. For now, though, it remains unclear when Forest Cove’s families will finally gain relief from their squalid living conditions.