Atlanta’s most notorious Section 8 apartment complex, Forest Cove, can remain standing, a Fulton County Superior Court judge decided Tuesday. The ruling favors owner Millennia Housing Management’s longshot bid to avoid a demolition order for the property, which was condemned in December 2021. 

Judge Eric Dunaway’s Aug. 22 order requires the city of Atlanta to fulfill the terms of the settlement agreement it made with Millennia, an  Ohio-based mega-landlord, in March 2022, after Millennia appealed the condemnation order. The deal said the city must void the demolition order if the Section 8 complex’s roughly 200 tenant families were rehoused.

The city led an effort to relocate the Forest Cove tenants, placing all of them in other apartments accepting government-backed rent vouchers across the metro area as of last October.

“The administration provided the $9.7 million needed to relocate residents to new housing, while the owner of Forest Cove, Millenia Properties, chose to expend their resources to bring a legal action to save the failing structures from demolition,” Michael Smith, a spokesperson for Mayor Andre Dickens, said in a statement Wednesday in response to the judge’s ruling.

Millennia did not respond to a request for comment.

Dunaway was ruling on Millennia’s May motion to lift the demolition order, because the tenants had been rehoused. The city pushed back, saying that doing so would breach Atlanta’s housing code. Forest Cove is uninhabitable and unsalvageable and cannot be allowed to stay upright, the city’s attorney, James Dearing Jr., said in a May 1 filing, adding that Millennia “cannot violate city housing laws by maintaining a nuisance masquerading as an apartment complex.”

But Dunaway ruled on Aug. 22 that the tenants had been rehoused, so the demolition mandate must be vacated, according to the terms of the settlement between the city and Millennia. The judge’s decision Tuesday appears to afford Millennia substantial latitude in what becomes of the long-neglected 22-acre property.

Whether Forest Cove is rehabbed, as Millennia has proposed, or torn down and rebuilt will affect a sprawling new revitalization plan for Thomasville Heights, where the property is located.

A community-crafted blueprint for the southside neighborhood envisions tearing down Forest Cove and replacing it with 786 apartments, 34 townhomes, and 30 accessory dwelling units. That would be denser than the current complex, which has 396 units in two-story buildings across the site.

In negotiations with the city, Millennia has maintained that it plans to spend at least $56 million rehabilitating the complex, which has suffered sewage leaks, mold, and disrepair for years.

But the company told Atlanta Civic Circle in July that it plans to sell the property. Millennia’s executive vice president of compliance and community affairs, Arthur Krauer, said the company was marketing the site for sale, “and we are optimistic that we will locate a buyer who will partner with the city of Atlanta on the city’s overall development plan for the Thomasville Heights area.”

The Aug. 22 ruling, however, puts all of that up in the air.

Asked to respond to the ruling, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said the company is free to do with the property as it pleases. HUD in June revoked its Housing Assistance Payments contract with Millennia that allowed Section 8 funding for Forest Cove.

“HUD does not have any other financial agreements with the owner and is not a party in any agreements or settlements between the owner and the city of Atlanta,” agency spokesperson Shannon Watkins said in an email on Wednesday. “The disposition of the property is between the owner, the owner’s mortgage company, and the city of Atlanta.”

Tenant advocacy groups have for years urged HUD to investigate Millennia for mismanaging its nationwide low-income housing portfolio—and they claim their well-documented concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

HUD in 2016 forced Forest Cove’s previous owner, Global Ministries Foundation, to sell its entire Section 8 portfolio, citing years of neglectful ownership. Millennia, which had been the property manager for the southside Atlanta complex, bought it from Global Ministries in April 2021.

Activists are asking why HUD hasn’t ordered Millennia to do the same. Foluke Nunn, a community organizer with the American Friends Service Committee, said she’s “disappointed by how passive HUD has been in this situation.” 

“Millennia got involved with Forest Cove in the first place because HUD pressured Global Ministries to sell its portfolio,” she told Atlanta Civic Circle. “They had the ability to intervene in a similar manner here, but they chose not to.”

“It’s infuriating that those buildings are just going to be left to decay for an indefinite period of time,” Nunn continued. “My hope is that the property can eventually be sold to a buyer who is committed to developing and maintaining new affordable housing.”

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1 Comment

  1. Can someone tell me why the city always needs a development partner for it’s affordable housing program?
    The city should just buy forest cove and repair it. Then rent it out and collect the rent themselves. That way they know it’s ran right

    I feel like we’re always begging someone to give us something or subsidize it. When. We can just get out there ourselves. I think the people and the activist should make a housing company to develop housing. Asking private rich people will fall on deaf ears. I’m a track labor for Norfolk southern. So working hard to get it done is second nature to me.

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