Forest Cove residents assail city’s rehousing efforts

Ayana Meriweather walks with her son and her siblings back to the Forest Cove Apartments in Atlanta after the bus dropped the children off from Slater Elementary School on Thursday, August 18, 2022. (Arvin Temkar /



Ayana Meriweather walks with her son and her siblings back to the Forest Cove Apartments in Atlanta after the bus dropped the children off from Slater Elementary School on Thursday, August 18, 2022. (Arvin Temkar /

Former Forest Cove residents forced out of the Thomasville Heights neighborhood have lashed out at Mayor Andre Dickens’ administration, expressing frustration at their lack of housing options in a city council community development committee meeting.

On Tuesday, Latresa Chaney of the Housing Justice League, who lived in the Section 8 apartment complex in southeast Atlanta from 2013 to 2019, told the city council that many residents have struggled to find adequate housing. A municipal judge ordered the Millennia Housing Management-owned complex razed and residents were rehoused in 2022.

“Residents from Forest Cove have had a horrible time finding housing that meets their needs,” she said during a heated public comment period. “Many are being forced into low-opportunity areas that are far from jobs and quality schools. Some of the units are in worse condition than Forest Cove.”

Shirley Pounds, who said she lived in Forest Cove for 20 years, lamented her current situation.

“We didn’t upgrade. We really downgraded,” she said, adding that she had been forced to the “outskirts of Atlanta” in Stockbridge, which is more than 20 miles south of the city.

“I want to be in the city of Atlanta, where I put in my time and I got my GED and I graduated,” she said. “I need to be right here in a city where I’m allowed jobs and childcare.”

Residents and activists frequently interrupted Mayor Dickens’ senior advisor Josh Humphries as he addressed them at the meeting, leading committee chair Jason Winston to intervene.

“Please keep order or we can take this conversation offline,” Winston said.

According to Humphries, the city had done the “best it could” to rehouse residents “in the tightest housing market in the city in a generation.”

“Forest Cove is not owned by the city. It was not subsidized by the city. It was subsidized directly by HUD,” he said, referring to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “We don’t control what happens at Forest Cove and the long-term future of it.”

In March, Dickens said the Atlanta Urban Development Corporation released a Request for Qualifications, or RFQ, seeking development partners to revive Thomasville Heights and relocate Forest Cove residents who left the complex.

The Urban Development Corporation said the first phase of the project on public land will include two, three and four-bedroom homes. Dickens wants to have a developer in place by the end of this year.

One of the biggest obstacles the city faced during relocation was the lack of available three- or four-bedroom homes, according to Humphries. He said the first phase would include about 100 family-sized units. The city was moving quickly to build them, he added.

“The mayor has made it clear since day one that we will do everything within our legal power to create a pathway back to Thomasville Heights for any resident of Forest Cove that wants to come back there,” he said.

After a Wednesday morning press conference at the Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail, Dickens said housing vouchers had given families the option to “choose where they go in the region.”

“They used to be confined to Forest Cove, which was rats, roaches, mildew, broken glass, HVAC problems, as well as crime. Now they have a document that we negotiated with the federal government, with HUD, that now they can go anywhere they want to go,” he said.

Dickens said the city of Atlanta had “done its part” but that it would “apply pressure” to The Leumas Group, a real estate management company tasked with offering relocation services.

In January, lawyers representing the Atlanta Economic Justice Program of the American Friends Service Committee and the Housing Justice League sent a letter to HUD, Leumas, the City of Atlanta, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs “regarding the rushed, chaotic and unlawful relocation of hundreds of families from their former home at Forest Cove.”

“The little assistance offered by Leumas to Forest Cove residents included a list of available rental properties, where the majority of the units identified are located in high-poverty, low-opportunity areas, thus effectively segregating and steering Forest Cove families into majority Black communities,” the letter states.

According to the letter, families were presented with homes blighted with trash, rats and roaches — “starkly similar to their housing conditions at Forest Cove.”

Among other things, the Jan. 19 letter demands that Forest Cove families be given a right to return to new housing in Thomasville Heights.

“The residents must not be subjected to rescreening and must be guaranteed to receive housing that will meet their household size and accessibility needs. The City of Atlanta should provide an explicit right of return to all former Forest Cove tenants,” the letter states.

Foluke Nunn, a community organizer with the American Friends Service Committee, said families and activists will discuss the right-to-return with city officials next week.

Staff reporter Riley Bunch contributed to this story.