Yet another violent episode at the Southside’s Forest Cove Apartments has amplified the need to swiftly rehouse the condemned complex’s tenants—and spotlighted the city’s trouble finding them suitable homes.

A shooting there on Monday morning injured five people, including a teenager still in critical condition after suffering a gunshot wound to the head, according to an Atlanta Police Department incident report.

It was only the latest instance of suspected gang violence at the troubled Section 8 apartment complex owned by Millennia Housing Management, where residents for years have grappled with crime, mismanagement, and neglect.

There have been 19 homicides at Forest Cove since 2009, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and tenants also live alongside rats, roaches, and mold.

Atlanta City Councilmember Jason Winston, who represents the district where the dilapidated apartments are located, told Atlanta Civic Circle that Monday’s shooting “should fast-track” the city’s effort to place Forest Cove residents in safe, stable housing. But that’s much easier said than done. 

At the beginning of the year, Mayor Andre Dickens’ office intervened after an Atlanta judge condemned the property and assembled a team to relocate the over 200 tenants and their children, spearheaded by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and aided by local nonprofits. The team crafted a plan with Millennia and the city to move all the tenants to other apartments accepting government-subsidized rent vouchers by the mayor’s deadline of Aug. 1.

But the dearth of available three- and four-bedroom apartments where landlords will accept subsidized rent payments has stifled the relocations as the Aug. 1 start of the Atlanta Public Schools semester fast approaches. The team’s effort finally began to bear fruit last month, with 21 families relocated between June 1 and June 30.

Housing Justice League activist Foluke Nunn said many remaining residents worry that they could be the next victims of violent crime if the relocation process drags on for too long. “This [shooting] is just making folks even more anxious to leave the property,” she said. “They don’t want to die in Forest Cove.”

In response to that glaring shortage, the relocation team has broadened the scope of its apartment search for apartments—which initially scanned just Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton counties—to include the entire metro Atlanta area, according to the mayor’s senior advisor, Courtney English.

Even so, the team will likely miss the mayor’s deadline to have everyone—or at least families with school-age children—out of Forest Cove before school starts in August.

The plight of the deteriorating complex’s residents was an impetus for city council legislation earlier in July allowing Atlanta officials to bring in the Fulton County district attorney’s office to prosecute property owners and landlords with residential units in dangerous disrepair.

Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis last week asked each Atlanta City Council member to submit a list of the most problematic properties in their respective districts, saying they will be her office’s first targets in the effort to clean up neglected housing and punish negligent landlords. In extreme cases, the county could use its civil asset forfeiture power to seize their properties, said Willis spokesperson Jeff DiSantis. 

Winston said the new city-county partnership reinforces that “landlords have obligations to their tenants—ones that clearly have not been met for a long time at Forest Cove.”

But unfortunately, Fulton can’t take over the Forest Cove property from Millennia, he said, because a Section 8 agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development places it under the federal government’s purview.

For now, Winston said, the relocation team must redouble its search for available apartments and get Forest Cove residents out of harm’s way.

Property owners with vacant units can contact housing@atlantaga.gov to help house Forest Cove residents.

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