Two months after the original relocation deadline set by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, there are still 51 families living at Forest Cove, the condemned Southside apartment complex owned by Millennia Housing Management—and the housing situation for other Section 8 renters who have left remains unclear.
As of Friday morning, the relocation team organized by the city of Atlanta had found new apartments for 102 families—about half of those recently living at Forest Cove—and placed another 10 families in hotels, as it searches for metro Atlanta apartments where landlords will accept Section 8 rent vouchers.
Another 39 families left the deteriorating complex without assistance from the relocation team. That leaves 51 of the 202 Forest Cove families still there, according to the mayor’s office.
Complicating the search is the scarcity of three- and four-bedroom units available for tenants with children in complexes that take the publicly funded vouchers, said mayor’s office spokesperson Michael Smith.
Foluke Nunn, a community organizer for the American Friends Service Committee, said some Forest Cove residents have elected to stay put, despite the unlivable conditions, to avoid potentially lengthy hotel stays. They worry they could be stuck there for a long time while the relocation team shops around for apartments.
She added that one relocation team member, Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF), is trying to find the 39 tenants who left without notifying the team to follow up on their living conditions.
AVLF executive director Michael Lucas told Atlanta Civic Circle that his organization is now working to identify those 39 renters to address whether or how they need help.
The relocation team is led by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, with help from a consultancy, APD Urban Planning, and local nonprofits including AVLF.
Even though an Atlanta judge condemned Forest Cove in December and ordered it demolished by this month, Millennia still intends to refurbish the complex.
The demolition was placed on hold when Millennia appealed the condemnation order in January. When the city intervened and formed an agreement with Millennia last March to rehouse the families, it agreed to drop the demolition demand, according to WABE.
Millennia has said it intends to spend about $56 million to rehabilitate the 396-unit complex—or more than $140,000 per unit. It would then invite Forest Cove’s former residents to return, although that could be several years from now.
Nunn said most of the Forest Cove residents she’s heard from want to come back “if the apartments are renovated and are a lot nicer than they were before,” but some worry that refurbishing the complex to a habitable standard still won’t deter the crime it has become known for.
Millennia spokesperson Valerie Jerome said the Ohio-based housing redeveloper and manager intends to preserve Forest Cove as affordable Section 8 housing. But she said Millennia requires subsidies from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to rehabilitate the property, which has suffered from mold infestations and sewage leaks for years.
Millennia will re-apply to DCA for low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) that are needed to secure construction financing, Jerome said. The timing for the rehabilitation hinges on whether DCA approves its application outright or calls for changes.
The DCA denied Millennia’s LIHTC application in early 2022 after learning that Forest Cove had been condemned.