Advocacy Groups Urge City of Atlanta, State and Federal, Agencies to Ensure Nondiscriminatory Relocation of Forest Cove Residents
Letter sent to officials highlights possible civil rights violations as families were forced to live in deplorable conditions and given little time and few resources before being forced to vacate
ATLANTA— Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the National Housing Law Project (NHLP) sent a demand letter on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Housing Justice League (HJL) imploring the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the City of Atlanta and the Leumas Group to remedy the chaotic and burdensome process of Forest Cove residents’ ability to find affordable housing.
“Forest Cove residents have systemically and continually been met with inaction when it comes to ensuring that they have adequate housing and safe living conditions. The experiences of the families that made Forest Cove their home is a testament to the need for positive change and for the City of Atlanta and HUD to fulfill their obligation in guaranteeing that residents not only have the proper resources to relocate, but that they are also able to return to their community should they choose to do so,” said Alison Johnson, executive director of the Housing Justice League.
Tenants were initially given a timeframe of early January 2024 to find housing with their given vouchers. While that deadline was extended until February 2024, little time and few resources have been provided to assist Forest Cove families in finding suitable housing. The SPLC and the National Housing Law Project are asking for an extended deadline until at least August 2024.
The letter outlines how these actions and inactions violate residents’ civil rights. Families are being racially steered and face race discrimination due to the rushed and insufficient housing relocation process, which perpetuates segregation. Forest Cove families have received little to no housing counseling services and have primarily been on their own to find landlords willing to take their vouchers or, in the worst case, be rendered homeless. Since the relocation contractor Leumas has not provided specialized housing counseling, families are being faced with moving to low-opportunity, segregated neighborhoods, contrary to civil rights obligations. Families with minor children and household members with disabilities are also struggling to find housing to meet their needs.
“Consideration must be given to the tenant’s civil rights. Instead, they have been met with a mismanaged relocation process that may provide them with low opportunities and the inability to take advantage of the vouchers they have been given. They should not feel abandoned or rushed to relocate without proper consideration for their right to access fair and affordable housing,” said Foluke Nunn, community organizer with the American Friends Service Committee.
HJN and AFSC are urging HUD to give Forest Cove residents the resources and support they need to successfully relocate. They are also calling on HUD to extend assistance to the dozens of residents who were forced to move out of Forest Cove prior to the start of the relocation process. They are demanding that the residents have their housing subsidies restored and offered other options, including sufficient relocation assistance. In addition, the group asks that the City of Atlanta develop a written, enforceable right-of-return that allows all former Forest Cove tenants, who wish to live in site-based housing, to return to any new housing developed by the City of Atlanta in Thomasville Heights