The team tasked with rehousing the 202 families living at the Southside’s condemned Forest Cove apartments is well behind the target goal of relocating everyone before the Atlanta Public Schools semester begins on Aug. 1.

One month into the relocation effort, which started June 1, only 21 of the 202 Forest Cove families had secured new housing, according to June 30 data from the team—the most recent available. That leaves 181 households still in need of apartments, as the Aug. 1 deadline Mayor Andre Dickens set in May fast approaches. 

The relocation team—led by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, with help from city officials, local nonprofits, and property owner Millennia Housing Management—now hopes to move all families “with school-aged children” by the beginning of the school year, Nichole Owens, a Community Foundation spokesperson, said in an email.

But Owen said the dearth of three- and four-bedroom apartments currently on the market, where landlords are willing to accept government-subsidized rent payments, could cause more delays. “The availability of those units in the market may also affect the timeline,” she wrote.

“No two families are alike; no two families have the same needs,” she added. “As such, we are working individually with each family to meet their needs, which is not a binary process.”

Dickens had initially said in March that everyone living at the squalid Section 8 complex—plagued for years by pests, mold, and violent crime—would be settled in safe and stable housing by July 15, but he later revised that to Aug. 1, when school starts. 

The relocation team, which is funded by $9.1 million in federal COVID-19 pandemic relief funds allocated to the city of Atlanta, has said it’s been challenging to find sufficient multi-bedroom apartments for Forest Cove’s many families, as Atlanta loses affordable housing units by the day. 

It’s not clear how well Forest Cove’s residents are being kept updated on their moves. Owens said the relocation team has engaged with all 202 families to keep them abreast of their status, but Housing Justice League activist Foluke Nunn told Atlanta Civic Circle that most tenants “have no way of knowing when they will be moved.”

“I’ve been speaking to a lot of residents who are frustrated because they haven’t been contacted about their options yet,” Nunn said.

“All of the residents I have spoken with understand that this is a process that may take some time, but they wish there was a better system of communication,” she added. “Many of them will reach out to me after unsuccessfully trying to contact APD Urban or Open Doors (two of the nonprofits assisting in the relocation effort).”

Notified of Nunn’s concerns, Owens said in an email that the relocation team is adding service coordinators “to conduct outreach, build trust, and facilitate engagement in the six steps of the relocation process.”

Those six steps are:

  1. Each family visits three housing options, with transportation provided. 
  2. Each family selects a unit and completes necessary documents with help from Open Doors.
  3. New units are inspected, and the team issues a holding fee. 
  4. Residents are given a relocation assistance package including furniture, moving supplies, and moving firm options.
  5. While families pack for their move, the relocation team establishes utility agreements in the residents’ names, schedules movers, and pays move-in fees. 
  6. Throughout the transition, neighborhood partners are working to provide additional services, including camps for children, fresh produce, and access to clean shower facilities. 

Nunn said that a few of the 21 families who’ve actually been rehoused have already complained of maintenance issues, like leaks and faulty appliances. 

“The units are inspected to filter out major issues,” she said. “But it seems that the inspections aren’t able to catch everything. I have heard residents mention fire alarms that don’t work, refrigerators that don’t work, and leaks—to name a few things.”

Owens said the team is addressing problems reported by newly rehoused tenants as they arise.

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