The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will strip Ohio-based mega-landlord Millennia Housing Management of federal funding for Forest Cove Apartments, the infamous southside Atlanta complex that a city judge condemned in 2021, Mayor Andre Dickens’ office has confirmed.
In a letter sent in early May to former Forest Cove residents, whom the city of Atlanta rehoused last year after the property was condemned, the city and the nonprofit Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta hinted that HUD could revoke Millennia’s Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contract—a deal that subsidizes rent via housing vouchers for low-income households—for Forest Cove, one of at least 30 Section 8 properties the company owns.
The Dickens administration told Atlanta Civic Circle on Saturday that HUD had decided to cancel the agreement. HUD did not respond to a request for comment by publication.
Forest Cove renters previously used project-based vouchers, which tied the subsidies to their residency in that specific property—but the relocation prompted by the December 2021 condemnation order allowed them to transfer their HUD vouchers from Forest Cove to other apartment complexes.
Once HUD terminates the deal with Millennia, it will issue Tenant Protection Vouchers to the 188 relocated families, meaning they’ll retain their rental assistance and have the flexibility to move anywhere that accepts rent vouchers, including complexes outside of the city or state.
HUD’s plan to terminate Millennia’s HAP contract “ensures residents are going to be protected,” said Courtney English, a senior advisor to the mayor. “Their rents will continue to be paid, which is important news for them and their families.”
Millennia has faced years of local and national protests, thanks to its documented history of mismanaging properties and allowing them to become plagued by pests, mold, crime, and other neglect.
While Millennia won’t be obligated to house Section 8 renters at the dilapidated complex once HUD pulls the funding, it’s still indebted to the city, which used $9.1 million in federal Covid-19 pandemic relief money to rehouse and cover rent for ex-Forest Cove tenants for a year, English said.
Millennia spokesperson Valerie Jerome told Atlanta Civic Circle that the landlord had paid the city—via the Community Foundation, which spearheaded the relocation effort—“a substantial amount of money, in the range of $1 million,” for rent payments for the 188 rehoused households.
Millennia has also paid its former tenants over $170,000 in utility allowance payments, she said, adding, “The city has stated that there are additional amounts owed, but has not forwarded its calculation.”
The effects of pulling funding
Although a municipal judge in 2021 ordered Forest Cove razed by September 2022, that didn’t happen, because Millennia has been appealing the order in Fulton County Superior Court since March 2022.
The city entered into a settlement deal with the landlord later that month, agreeing to waive the demolition decree once the residents were relocated. But when Millennia filed a motion to enforce the agreement in March 2023, the city balked, saying the landlord had done virtually nothing to clean up and secure the deteriorating complex—and it couldn’t allow Millennia to “violate city housing laws by maintaining a nuisance masquerading as an apartment complex.”
English, the mayor’s advisor, said HUD yanking Millennia’s subsidy deal wouldn’t affect the appeal. But it could hinder the company’s $56 million plan to rehabilitate Forest Cove instead of demolishing it.
Millennia needs low-income housing tax credits from the state to do that, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs only issues those benefits for projects promising affordable units.
Advocacy groups, like Housing Justice League and the American Friends Service Committee—which have monitored the relocation process and its aftermath—see Millennia’s impending cutoff from local Section 8 involvement as a victory for former Forest Cove residents.
But these low-income renters aren’t out of the woods yet; the 188 leases signed across metro Atlanta for rehoused families will begin expiring in early June.
The city and the Community Foundation “are working now to address upcoming lease renewals and preparing residents for the possible transition to [Tenant Protection Vouchers],” according to the letter they sent to residents in early May.
The Community Foundation has also hired TI Asset Management to work with ex-Forest Cove residents and the property managers for their current apartments to negotiate lease renewals. The nonprofit and the city said in the letter to tenants that they’re asking landlords and property owners to sign several-month leases “to allow enough time for assessing viable, long-term options for tenants.”