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Over six months into the city’s emergency resident relocation effort, 43 families still remain at Forest Cove, the Southside’s condemned Section 8 apartment complex owned by Millennia Housing Management—but the mayor’s office said this week that the task force charged with rehousing everyone has identified new apartments for all of them.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced in March that the city would rehouse the 210 families who were still living at Forest Cove–after the complex was condemned late last year—but the dearth of Atlanta apartment complexes that accept Section 8 housing vouchers has seriously delayed the city’s relocation efforts.
As of this week, 159 households have moved out, thanks largely to the city’s $9.1 million relocation initiative—which Millennia must reimburse—mayor’s office spokesperson Michael Smith said in an email.
There are also six Forest Cove families temporarily staying in hotels while the city’s relocation team wrangles moving trucks and sorts out paperwork, Joshua Humphries, the city’s director of housing and community development, told Atlanta Civic Circle this week.
That’s down from 12 Forest Cove families living in hotels about a month ago. Housing advocates raised concerns last month that larger families from the condemned complex could get stuck indefinitely living in extended-stay hotels, due to the shortage of three- and four-bedroom apartments where landlords will accept government-subsidized rent payments.
The city and a relocation team appointed by the mayor have now identified “all of the units needed to meet the resident needs,” Humphries said, adding that the remaining 43 families at Forest Cove should be relocated to safe and stable housing in the coming weeks. But it’s still unclear whether the team has a target date for completion.
The mayor’s relocation team is led by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, with APD Urban Planning and local nonprofits that include the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation.
But the city and the relocation team have missed their own deadlines before.
When an Atlanta judge condemned the property in December, he ordered Millennia to evacuate all Forest Cove tenants by March 1 and demolish the complex by Sept. 22.
But in late March, Dickens’ office stepped in to fast-track the resident relocation effort. The mayor said he aimed to have everyone rehoused by mid-July, and the city inked an agreement with Millennia that will allow it to rehabilitate the decades-old buildings instead of tearing them down.
But the shortage of available apartments in metro Atlanta complicated that mission, so the city pushed back the deadline to Aug. 1, when school started for Atlanta Public Schools.
Some of the families who’ve been relocated to new apartments—some as far as Lithonia—have reported similar problems with their new dwellings, such as pest infestations, trash piling up in common areas, and appliances that don’t work, but the consensus among activists and former tenants interviewed by Atlanta Civic Circle is that almost anywhere is better than Forest Cove.