The 211 households living in squalor at southside Atlanta’s condemned Forest Cove apartments could be moved out by July 15, thanks to a deal orchestrated this week by Mayor Andre Dickens’ office and the property owner, Millennia Housing Management, city officials told Atlanta Civic Circle Thursday.
The 396-unit Section 8 complex, some of which is vacant due to units being totally uninhabitable, has been falling apart for years, plagued by mold, rats, roaches, and violent crime, leaving its low-income renters desperate for refuge.
An Atlanta judge condemned the property in December, calling for Millennia to rehouse everyone by March 1 and raze the structures by Sept. 22, but the Ohio-based developer appealed the court order, halting relocation efforts. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also notified Millennia it was in violation of its federal contract and was therefore in jeopardy of being deprived of subsidy, according to a recent report by WABE.
On Thursday, though, almost a year after Millennia purchased the dilapidated development from Global Ministries Foundation, Dickens’ team and the current owner announced they’d come to an agreement that could have Forest Cove’s struggling tenants starting to move out immediately.
To expedite the effort, the city of Atlanta plans to initially foot the bill for the relocation, although Millennia will be expected to reimburse the city, municipal officials said. The city did not say exactly where residents would be placed — only that HUD had agreed to allow their rent vouchers to transfer to the new homes.
Though Millennia’s appeal put the terms of the judge’s December order on hold — part of an effort to cling to the company’s potentially $56 million renovation plans — the firm’s executives have acknowledged that, if the ruling is upheld, Millennia will have to bulldoze the complex and build it anew.
In February, after announcing his administration had identified 170 potential units to help house most of Forest Cove’s residents while their homes are rebuilt, Dickens fast-tracked redevelopment of a vacant neighboring property that once included the Thomasville Heights public housing project.
Should Millennia be forced to completely rebuild Forest Cove, construction would take years. The property’s uncertainty prompted Atlanta Public Schools to call for the temporary closure of nearby Thomasville Heights Elementary School, the student body of which is predominantly composed of children living at the complex.
The newly announced relocation plan — which is part of an effort “to minimize any potential impact for Atlanta Public Schools students ahead of the new school year,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office — could toss a lifeline to the hundreds of people who have been trapped in dangerous living conditions for too long.
Unfortunately, though, this isn’t the first time they’ve been promised such a reprieve.