The nation’s top housing official, Marcia Fudge, would not say on Friday whether her agency would investigate Forest Cove owner Millennia Housing Management after a fire at a Millennia complex in Little Rock, Ark., killed three people early this month.
“We investigate all kinds of claims, not just deaths,” the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) chief told reporters at Atlanta First United Methodist Church, after a private discussion with city leaders and faith-based organizations on housing.
The Millennia Resistance Campaign, a national coalition of activist groups, told Atlanta Civic Circle earlier last week that the deadly fire in Arkansas—as well as a recent carbon monoxide leak at a Millennia-owned property in Mississippi that killed a mother and her child and a gas leak explosion at another in Florida in 2019—warranted a federal investigation of the Ohio-based company.
The housing secretary would not say if the fire and other problems at several Millennia complexes had prompted HUD to probe the controversial company’s management of its national portfolio of low-income, government-subsidized apartment complexes—a commitment she reportedly backed out of in the past.
Fudge told housing activists in Kansas City, Mo., last year that HUD would launch a full-fledged investigation into Millennia, after KC Tenants pressed her to pursue their allegations that the landlord negligently managed its properties there, according to KCUR
But the activists told KCUR just three weeks later that she quickly reneged on that promise. They said HUD pared back the investigation to just one complex, Kansas City’s Gabriel Towers, and held perfunctory meetings with Millennia leadership that spurred no change.
The Millennia Resistance Campaign similarly asked Fudge to investigate Millennia in response to the landlord’s years of neglect that allowed the Forest Cove Apartments, a condemned and now empty complex in Thomasville Heights, to fall into dangerous disrepair.
“We do have some issues that we’re working on with [Millennia],” Fudge said, when asked about the future of Forest Cove. The dilapidated complex shut down earlier this month after a city-led effort finally relocated roughly 200 families.
Fudge would not expound Friday on how HUD will remedy the issues with Millennia that she mentioned. Neither a spokesperson for HUD’s southeast regional office nor Millennia responded to Atlanta Civic Circle’s requests for comment.
Speaking generally, the housing secretary confirmed that HUD is still reforming its inspection procedures. “We are trying to standardize our inspection process, because every time we go into a place, it’s a different issue. Is it an emergency? Is it something that can wait?” she said.
Fudge said standardized procedures mean “we can make sure that those situations which put people at harm are immediately handled.”
“We do inspect on a regular basis as well,” she added. “So we try to be proactive and not just reactive.”The HUD chief did praise Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ office for stepping in last March to fast-track Forest Cove residents’ relocation, following a municipal judge’s December order condemning the property.
“The mayor and the city have done an outstanding job of addressing the situation,” Fudge said. “They have made sure that all residents are now safe, safely out of those properties.”