The fate of Forest Cove residents seemed uncertain at best until February, when the city of Atlanta stepped in to fast-track their long-overdue relocation from the condemned Section 8 apartment complex owned by Ohio-based Millennia Housing Management.
There’s still plenty of work to be done to place all 211 families in safe, stable housing, but as of last week—and after years of unfulfilled promises from the property’s owners—the city’s efforts are bearing fruit.
Thanks largely to $9.1 million in federal pandemic relief funds that Mayor Andre Dickens has dedicated to the relocation initiative, Forest Cove tenants have finally started moving out of the squalid community and into habitable apartments.
So how exactly is that money being spent?
Because of the dearth of Section 8 housing available, city officials and a roster of local organizations assisting with the relocations, such as the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, are still shopping around metro Atlanta for market-rate apartment complexes that have vacancies that will meet the needs of Forest Cove residents.
These units will likely be more expensive than the Forest Cove households’ current rent-subsidized residences, so almost a third of the $9.1 million relocation budget—roughly $2.4 million—is earmarked to subsidize the difference between the new units’ market rent and what the tenants will pay with the help of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidies. (HUD requires Section 8-eligible tenants to spend no more than 30% of their monthly income on rent.)
The $2.4 million breaks down, on average, to up to $11,374 per family in relocation funds, which are anticipated to continue until, in theory, Millennia either rebuilds or refurbishes Forest Cove. That could take a couple of years, however. An Atlanta judge condemned Forest Cove last December, ordering the tenants to be relocated by March 1 and the property to be razed by September–but the judge’s orders were paused when Millennia appealed, saying it still intends to rehabilitate Forest Cove.
About half, or $4.6 million, of the $9.1 million in federal funds has been allocated to cover things like transportation for residents to view possible apartments, as well as application fees, moving costs, furniture, and utility hookups and disconnections.
The remaining $2.1 million will pay the nonprofits that are providing supportive services such as childcare and employment assistance for Forest Cove residents, according to the Community Foundation’s president and CEO, Frank Fernandez.
Once Millennia finalizes a deal to either sell, restore, or rebuild Forest Cove, it will be required to reimburse the city in full.
Millennia representatives and city officials declined to say how long they expect the $9.1 million to last, or whether additional funding could be needed to subsidize the Forest Cove families’ new market-rate rents while they wait for the derelict apartment complex to be redeveloped.