Forest Cove property owner Millennia Housing Management began meeting with the condemned complex’s tenants Wednesday about a relocation plan—but it may not succeed in moving all 211 households before the July 15 target date set by the Atlanta mayor’s office.

“A lot is still up in the air,” due to the scarcity of apartments in Atlanta that accept Section 8 rent vouchers, Housing Justice League activist Foluke Nunn told Atlanta Civic Circle this week. Housing Justice League is assisting the tenants. 

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ office announced in March that it had set a plan with Millennia to move all the tenants by July 15. But now, Nunn said, “they can’t guarantee that everyone will be off-site by then.” 

The April 13 meeting, Nunn said, “was basically a more updated version of the relocation meetings that were held [last] summer. [Millennia] could not give specific information about the locations that folks would be moved to.” 

Millennia representatives did tell tenants of the Southside Atlanta complex, located in Fulton County, that some could be moved as far as DeKalb or Clayton counties.

The mayor’s office did not respond to Atlanta Civic Circle’s request for comment, although Millennia spokesperson Valerie Jerome said a relocation team made up of local nonprofits, plus APD Urban Planning and Management, is fielding residents’ questions about the plan, as they try to identify and secure new apartments.

Move-outs can start once Millennia secures the new apartments, which includes paying hold fees, Jerome said. Residents must also complete an administrative process established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), she said. 

Millennia first undertook relocating Forest Cove’s tenants last year, after buying the property in April and announcing that it would rehabilitate the dilapidated complex. But in December, an Atlanta judge condemned the complex, ordering Millennia to relocate tenants by March 1 and instead demolish the complex by September.

The Ohio-based developer has appealed in a bid to preserve its $56 million rehabilitation plan, but the condemnation order makes it more likely that Forest Cove will be demolished to make way for a new complex. 

Tenants can choose to move out permanently or return to Forest Cove once it is either rehabilitated or rebuilt, according to Millennia. Either way, the developer will pay their moving expenses, according to APD Urban Planning and Management materials. If they choose the return option, which could be two or three years away, Millennia will foot the bill for furniture and their children’s transportation to school while they are living elsewhere. 

Because of Forest Cove’s impending evacuation, Atlanta Public Schools announced in March that it intends to close nearby Thomasville Heights Elementary at the end of this school year, because its student body is largely made up of children from Forest Cove.

That has sparked fierce opposition from Thomasville Heights parents, especially those who don’t live at Forest Cove. Instead, they must enroll their children at T.H. Slater Elementary, about three miles northeast. 

In another recent development, local and national housing advocates have called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to investigate Millennia for running Forest Cove like a slum, along with five other Section 8 properties it owns and manages, according to WABE.

Millennia, though, said in a six-page statement sent to WABE that those complaints were misinformed, and that “we vehemently deny this accusation,” citing supposed inaccuracies regarding the company’s role in managing properties.

Jerome said she did not expect the relocation of Forest Cove’s tenants to be affected by any potential HUD investigation.

This story was updated on April 18, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. to include Millennia’s response to activists’ demand for HUD to investigate the company.

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