Atlanta completes relocation of Forest Cove residents as apartment closes

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

The city of Atlanta announced on Monday that every family at Forest Cove apartments in southeast Atlanta has successfully moved to new homes after years of living at the neglected complex.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens made a deal with Milliennia in March to expedite the relocation process after he visited residents at the complex in February. He then signed legislation in May to invest $9.1 million in federal funds into the relocation plan.

Credit: City of Atlanta

Credit: City of Atlanta

The relocation process began in June as residents viewed multiple properties before selecting their new homes. The city said the last resident moved on Sept. 30.

“This is a historic milestone for the families of Forest Cove who have been left behind for too many years,” Dickens said in a statement. “Even though the city wasn’t responsible for the conditions there, we had a moral obligation to act.”

ExploreAtlanta schools adjust to delayed relocation of Forest Cove residents

Rampant violent crime at Forest Cove was highlighted earlier this year in the AJC series “Dangerous Dwellings” about unsafe and unsanitary apartment complexes in metro Atlanta. The newspaper reported that the police had investigated 19 homicides at Forest Cove since 2009 – the most of any location in the city – and quoted criminologists and police officials who linked high crime rates there and at similar complexes to chronically substandard living conditions.

After the series published, city officials and the Fulton County District Attorney’s office responded with a list of 43 apartment complexes where they planned a sweeping crackdown, including Forest Cove. At the time, the AJC reported, Forest Cove had 108 pending cases concerning housing-code violations, including 29 that involved situations the city described as “highly hazardous.”

Following the Atlanta crackdown, other local governments – most recently, Cobb County – also have taken steps to address chronic problems identified in the newspaper articles.

Forest Cove also was the subject of several articles in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which revealed in a 2018 investigation that state and local governments in Georgia lack authority to address mold issues in privately-owned rental units. A Municipal Court judge condemned Forest Cove for demolition after the city sued property owner Milliennia Companies due to safety and crime concerns last year.

Frank Fernandez, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, acknowledged in a statement that the process wasn’t seamless. But he praised the nonprofit, for-profit, and government agencies involved in relocating the 202 families.

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

The mayor’s office said the city covered all the moving services and new furniture for residents. The mayor’s office also said the federal government is planning to continue providing subsidized rent to the families.

Milliennia will repay the full amount to the city after the owner closes a deal for the rehabilitation, rebuild or sale of the property. With Forest Cove now closed, plans can now begin to redevelop the site for future housing. Forest Cove residents will have the option to return to the Thomasville Heights housing community when the project is finished.

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Lolita Evans told the AJC she was one of the last residents to leave Forest Cove on Sept. 29. She said she hopes she will get reimbursed for her relocation expenses because her family moved four times between College Park and Jonesboro before her paperwork was resolved for their Jonesboro home. Evans also said she’s seeking assistance from the city to get her child enrolled into school.

“It’s been rough but I’m going to work with what I got,” Evans said.

ExploreSpecial AJC investigation: Dangerous Dwellings: Unsafe. Unhealthy. Unlivable