Ohio-based mega-landlord Millennia Housing Management is still angling to salvage Forest Cove Apartments, after a city judge condemned the southeast Atlanta property in December 2021 and gave Millennia until mid-September 2022 to bulldoze it.
Instead of razing and rebuilding the 396-unit complex, which exclusively housed tenants using federally funded Section 8 vouchers, Millennia appealed the judge’s ruling and in March 2022 entered into a settlement agreement with the city of Atlanta that would have teed up a renovation.
But the city said in a May 1 filing in Fulton County Superior Court that Millennia’s attempt to rescind the demolition order is invalid, because the 50-year-old buildings that make up the complex are in uninhabitable and unsalvageable condition after years of sewage leaks, mold infestations, and other neglect.
The city, represented by James Dearing Jr., said Millennia “cannot violate city housing laws by maintaining a nuisance masquerading as an apartment complex,” in its response to Millennia’s March 13 motion to enforce the settlement deal—and cancel the demolition order.
In the settlement deal last year, the city agreed to waive the judge’s demolition mandate, contingent on relocating the over 200 families who’d been living in unsafe and uninhabitable conditions at Forest Cove for years before it was finally condemned, after racking up 231 code violations.
It also said Millennia should secure the property with fences, security guards, and upgraded lighting, but those were not written as binding terms of the deal. “In the event that the owner fails to adequately secure the property, the city has the right to take the necessary steps to do so and to seek to recover the reasonable costs,” the settlement agreement said.
A city-led team of local nonprofits, financed by $9.1 million in federal COVID-19 relief money, spent from May until October of last year finding apartment complexes that would accept Section 8 vouchers for the Forest Cove families and assisting with their moves.
The team, led by the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, is still working with the tenants to resolve problems at their new units, like pests, mold, and violent crime.
Now that the relocation is complete, it’s time for the city to carry out the rest of the deal, said Marvin Arrington Jr., Millennia’s lawyer for Forest Cove and also a Fulton County commissioner, in the March 13 motion.
Having all the renters moved out of Forest Cove was the “only requirement for the parties agreeing to set aside the demolition order,” Millennia claimed in the court filing.
The landlord wants the city to give up its demand for the complex to be razed, so that it can get on with the $56 million renovation of Forest Cove that it’s been planning since 2021.
Millennia’s plan to renovate Forest Cove would cost upwards of $140,000 per unit for the complex’s 396 units, and the landlord has told Atlanta Civic Circle that it’s contingent on tax credits from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA).
Although Millennia secured the necessary building permits from the city before asking the state for rehab funding, the DCA disqualified its application for the tax credits in January because the property was condemned.
The settlement agreement would bar the city from interfering in any upcoming applications for DCA tax credits by Millennia.
Millennia’s bid to enforce the settlement agreement “is nothing more than a stall” against razing the property, the city said in its May 1 filing.
Not so, said Millennia spokesperson Valerie Jerome in an emailed statement to Atlanta Civic Circle. “Millennia disagrees with the statement by the city’s legal team about the legal position of this case and believes that the characterization that any filings in the court are a ‘stalling tactic’ is inaccurate,” she said.
But the city, after repeatedly claiming in court that Millennia has done virtually nothing to clean up and secure the complex since the condemnation order, pointed out the glaring state of disrepair Forest Cove remains in.
“The property is in no better shape than it was in when the municipal court declared it a nuisance,” the city said. It concluded that the settlement agreement would defy the city’s own housing code, so it’s legally unenforceable.
The city supplied photos from late 2022 and early 2023 in its filing that show large holes ripped in the security fences Millennia had installed in response to the condemnation order, torn-down fencing, and trash, toilets, furniture, and pieces of the deteriorating apartment buildings littered around the parking lot.
A hearing over Millennia’s motion to enforce the settlement agreement is scheduled for July 3 at 9:30 a.m.