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When housing advocates learned six Section 8 renters recently relocated from Atlanta’s infamous Forest Cove apartments had received eviction notices over late rent payments, they leapt to demand answers from the city-led team assembled to help those tenants escape the complex.
It took until October for the relocation team made up of nonprofits, property owner Millennia Housing Management, and Mayor Andre Dickens’ office to find apartments that would accept government-subsidized rent payments for over 200 tenants from the dilapidated and dangerous southside apartment complex.
Foluke Nunn, a community organizer with the American Friends Service Committee, doesn’t want them to slip back into housing insecurity. Nunn has been closely monitoring the relocation effort, which didn’t wrap until October—a whole nine months after an Atlanta judge condemned Forest Cove in late 2021.
“My main concern is about the evictions,” she said, “but the bigger picture for me is that the process is not running as smoothly as I think is being conveyed to the public.”
The six renters are worried that the recent eviction filings against them over delayed rent payments—even if unenforced—could make finding housing difficult down the road, Nunn added.
The $9.1 million operation the city set up to rehouse Forest Cove tenants and help them pay for their new apartments hit snags that led to unpaid rent for the six relocated tenants. Relocation team partner APD Urban Planning + Management fell months behind on rent payments to some of the new landlords, spurring eviction filings.
The city’s money, which helps Forest Cove’s former residents pay the chunk of their rent not covered by government subsidies, first goes through the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, which is spearheading the relocation team, and then to APD Urban, which writes the actual checks to the landlords.
In a letter Nunn sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which oversees Section 8 leases, she urged the federal agency to look into why the rent payments have been late.
“It would be greatly appreciated if HUD could follow up with both APD Urban and Millennia as soon as possible to get down to the bottom of why this issue keeps occurring,” Nunn wrote.
Although the relocation team says they’ve resolved the rent payment problem, Nunn said some ex-Forest Cove tenants still received late notices at the beginning of January.
HUD and APD Urban did not respond to Atlanta Civic Circle’s inquiries, but relocation team members from the mayor’s office, Millennia, and Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF) blamed the snafus on the complex nature of the resident relocation effort and said that the tenants’ back rent was being paid.
“In all cases, rent has been paid and residents were able to remain in their homes,” mayor’s office spokesperson Michael Smith said in a statement.
AVLF “is working with the respective property managers to ensure the dismissal of all six [eviction] cases, Smith’s statement said.
AVLF head Michael Lucas said in an interview that no former Forest Cove resident would be displaced due to nonpayment of rent, adding that his firm is representing the six who received eviction notices—and will go to bat in court for any others who encounter trouble.
The effort to rehouse over 200 households and help them pay rent was bound to face complications, Lucas said, because relocation team members are working with a multitude of landlords, all with different rent deadlines and paperwork requirements.
“These [six cases] are all either about late payments or, in one case, payment going to the wrong entity,” he said. The late payments have been cleared up with the respective landlords and the eviction filings will be rectified soon.
Smith, in the mayor’s office, said the rent payments will be on time going forward, explaining in the statement that the relocation team “identified the issue early on and worked with property owners to improve the process and ensure timely rental payments.”
Millennia spokesperson Valerie Jerome also attributed the late payments to the complex process. “The relocation and pass-through lease process is complex, in part, due to the multiple entities involved, but the parties are working together to obtain correct ledgers, verify payments, and streamline the process,” she said in an email.