Atlanta Mayor Dickens promises plan to relocate Forest Cove tenants by end of the week

Ms. Peaches, who's lived at Forest Cove for about 20 years, has spent much of her energy fighting for better conditions. She embraced Mayor Dickens Saturday. (Stephannie Stokes/WABE)

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens assured residents at the Forest Cove apartments Saturday they will soon get safe homes. His visit came after WABE’s year-long investigation into the conditions at the southeast Atlanta complex and one resident’s fight for change.

That resident, a woman named Ms. Peaches, stood at the front as Dickens pulled up to Forest Cove and cheered before giving him a long hug.

“Yay! Yay! Yay!” she said. “We need you!” 

She and other residents at the federally-subsidized complex have lived among some of the worst conditions in the city, including burned out buildings, collapsing floors and rats. They’ve waited years for a promised renovation. In the past month, that plan fell apart.

Dickens, however, told residents the city is working on an effort, together with its low-income housing agency Atlanta Housing and economic development arm Invest Atlanta, to move residents out. He said he expects to make an announcement by the end of the week.

“This ain’t owned by the city, but I’m in it now,” he said. “Because this is deplorable. This is something we got to fix.”

forest cove
As Mayor Dickens took stock of the conditions at Forest Cove, he came to a near-collapsing window, where a small child looked out. (Stephannie Stokes/WABE)

In the meeting, Dickens also made another promise. He said residents eventually will get to return to an improved Forest Cove. He said he’s working out a way for the property still to be renovated. 

The tenants present at the meeting pressed him on this. Asked if the redevelopment would really take place, Dickens said “Oh yeah, it’s gonna happen.”

This past year, a new owner named Millennia was supposed to carry out that renovation. It bought the complex last spring in a long-stalled sale and said it would relocate tenants shortly after in order to renovate the complex. 

But tenants then waited months. After the company’s delays lasted into the winter, a city judge ruled to condemn the complex. Because of that ruling, Millennia lost a financing deal it needed to fund the renovation. 

After speaking with residents, Dickens surveyed the conditions at Forest Cove along with the area’s new city council member, Jason Winston. Among the trash and standing water, they came to a unit that had lost most of its siding. A small child looked out through the window.

Forest Cove has received more than 500 housing code complaints and violations over the past five years — more than any other complex in the city. In its last inspection by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which was four years ago, the complex failed, receiving only 32 points out of 100.