Atlanta Mayor Dickens meets with Forest Cove residents to ease relocation concerns

Atlanta Mayor Dickens visited the deteriorated Forest Cove complex twice this past week, following the slow-moving start to the relocation process. (Stephannie Stokes/WABE)

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens assured Forest Cove residents on Thursday night that his team had found housing for everyone left in the apartments.

So far, only a couple dozen tenants have moved from the deteriorated, federally-subsidized complex in south Atlanta. When the city initially launched its relocation effort at the end of March, it said it hoped to get all roughly 200 tenants by this month.

More than 100 tenants showed up to Thursday night’s town hall, Dickens’ second with residents this week. They filed into the bleachers at the Thomasville Heights gym next to the complex. 

Some residents said they hadn’t heard anything about their relocation. They worried that they would be forgotten in the process. 

Jajuan Burton said Forest Cove had already been forgotten for so long.

“I mean, just look at the condition of the units,” Burton said.

The complex is riddled with abandoned units, trash often covers the ground and residents deal with infestations. Burton said his unit is full of mold. 

“The whole closet is pretty much blacked out. The walls falling apart,” he said.

Another resident, Brittany Church, had been relocated. She came to the meeting because she needed to move again. She said she discovered problems at her new unit. 

There were holes that hadn’t been patched and she saw rats and roaches around. 

“It’s just like I left one situation and I’m back in the same situation again,” Church said. 

Despite these concerns, the residents in the bleachers cheered and waved their hands when Dickens showed up. He promised everyone would get housing that was safe.

“I want to see you get into the right place that you deserve to be in,” he said.

Dickens said the demand for housing in Atlanta has complicated the effort. The supply is low and rents have increased dramatically.

Still, he said his team had identified units for every family. If necessary, residents could move temporarily into hotels.

“We want you to move,” Dickens said. “We need you to move.”

Burton was one of the residents who left the town hall with a paper listing the units he could choose from.

“So I’m gonna look those up and see where we go from there,” he said.

Frank Fernandez, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, said 40 more families are now expected to move in the next two weeks, with half going to hotels. 

He said he hoped the speed of the relocation would now pick up. 

“So I think we’re we’re turning the corner,” Fernandez said. “But obviously we need to move faster.”

He said the units may not be perfect, but they’re doing their best to address residents’ concerns when they move.

The Community Foundation is one of several nonprofits involved in the relocation effort, which also includes the property’s owner, Millennia.

The city expects to pay $9 million in federal funding to cover the residents’ move. Millennia is supposed to reimburse the costs when it determines a redevelopment plan for the property.

The company had to pause its already delayed renovation plan at the end of last year when the city filed a condemnation order against the property.

To read WABE’s year-long investigation into the conditions at Forest Cove, leading up to that order, click here.