Four families who’ve been enduring squalid living conditions at the Forest Cove apartments have finally left the condemned Section 8 complex, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ office announced Friday.
But there’s still work to do to rehouse over 200 households that are still stuck living there among rats, roaches, mold, and crime.
“Today is an important milestone,” Dickens said in a press release as the long-delayed relocations began, years after Forest Cove’s owner Millennia Housing Management—and its previous owner, Global Ministries Foundation—told residents that the dilapidated apartment community would be renovated up to livable standards.
The city, Millennia, and the rest of the relocation team—including the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Open Doors Atlanta, and APD Urban Planning and Management—must still find about 70 apartments willing to accept rent subsidies from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
That’s tough to do since apartment complexes accepting HUD vouchers are full up. Instead, the team must find apartments that don’t already offer subsidized rentals, Housing Justice League activist Foluke Nunn told Atlanta Civic Circle last month.
Open Doors has found 135 metro Atlanta units that can accommodate Forest Cove families, and the relocation team has shared these housing options with roughly 70 families so far, according to the mayor’s office. (Property owners with vacant units can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to help house Forest Cove residents.)
The mayor’s office and Millennia did not respond to Atlanta Civic Circle’s inquiries about where these four families went or whether the over 200 remaining households will be moved out by July 15, a goal the mayor set in March.
However, Dickens said in May that he hopes to have all Forest Cove residents in safe, stable housing before Atlanta Public Schools resumes classes on Aug. 1.
The city of Atlanta allocated $1.5 million of its federal COVID-19 relief funds to cover relocation costs in May, which is the first installment of $9.1 million in federal funds the mayor’s office pledged earlier in the year to facilitate the Forest Cove tenants’ relocation.
Millennia is expected to pay the city back once the process is complete.
It’s still not clear what will happen to the Forest Cove property once the tenants are relocated.
An Atlanta judge condemned the complex in December and gave Millennia until March 1 to relocate the tenants and until Sept. 22 to demolish it, citing a litany of code enforcement violations that make the apartments uninhabitable, along with hundreds of 911 calls for, among other things, domestic violence, burglary, robbery, and homicide.
But Millennia appealed the condemnation order in January, which stalled the March 1 relocation deadline and the demolition. The developer said it still wanted to follow through with plans to invest more than $55 million to rehabilitate the property, at a cost of over $140,000 per unit for the 396 units.
Millennia’s appeal is still pending.