Forest Cove’s residents finally seem close to moving out of the Southside apartment complex that was condemned in December. Now, it’s up to city of Atlanta leaders and property owner Millennia Housing Management to make good on their promise to relocate the 211 households still living there by mid-July.
Millennia is expected to sit down with tenants of the distressed Section 8 complex this week—perhaps as soon as Wednesday—and tell people when they can expect to pack up and where they’ll go, according to company spokesperson Valerie Jerome and Housing Justice League activists.
Forest Cove residents have been waiting years for Millennia—and prior owner Global Ministries Foundation before that—to bring the complex, long infested with mold, sewage overflows, bugs, rodents, and crime, up to inhabitable standards.
When Millennia bought the property from Global Ministries a year ago, it touted a $56 million renovation plan that called for the tenants to temporarily relocate to make way for construction crews. But that plan fell apart when an Atlanta judge condemned the complex in late December, ordering that the tenants be relocated by March 1 and the property be demolished by September.
Millennia is appealing the condemnation order, which has stalled the tenants’ relocation indefinitely by suspending the judge’s March 1 deadline, adding uncertainty to their already precarious housing security. But the developer has conceded that demolition and full reconstruction is likely the only way forward.
When Mayor Andre Dickens intervened during the first weeks of his administration, calling Forest Cove’s living conditions “deplorable,” it shone the first real glimmer of hope for the 211 households who’ve been stuck in squalor for years.
Dickens’ office says it has identified hundreds of apartments in Atlanta that accept Section 8 rent vouchers where the tenants can live while the property is rebuilt, but the locations have not yet been announced. The mayor’s office also secured an agreement from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to allow Forest Cove residents’ Section 8 vouchers transfer to their new homes.
The residents’ impending relocation prompted Atlanta Public Schools in February to announce the temporary closure of neighboring Thomasville Heights Elementary, whose student body is mostly made up of Forest Cove children.
Meanwhile, Millennia, after Forest Cove residents threatened a rent strike in February, agreed to stop charging rent, as they continue to live in substandard conditions while they wait to be relocated.
If Millennia is able to rebuild the complex, which could take years, the current tenants will be invited to return.