A Miami attorney is questioning the validity of the city's suggested need for a proposed housing development just off of P Street.

The $2.1 million project is expected to put 20 families into affordable housing in areas outside of the floodplain. Victims of the July 3 flood will have the first option to purchase, according to city officials.

Jim Thompson, a longtime Miami attorney and himself a real estate investor, raised questions in a letter dated Nov. 1 and provided to the members of the Miami City Council, the city's community development office, City Manager Michael Spurgeon and Mayor Brent Brassfield. He penned his letter in response to the city's public notice of a request for release of grant money awarded for a 20-home housing development south of the intersection of 20th Avenue SW and N Street SW.

Additionally, Thompson suggests that the city may be using public funds to compete against private enterprise.

Thompson cites the existence of a private investment project - one block south of the city's proposed development site - where 21 construction-ready residential home sites and two newly constructed 1,200-square-foot homes “remain unsold with no apparent demand.”

“In speaking with various representatives of the city, I am told that the city desires to construct a subdivision with roads and utilities where 20, 1,000- to 1,200-square-foot homes might be constructed in a price range somewhere between $90,000 and $120,000,” Thompson wrote. “I am told that the city is in dire need of such an area as none is available in the city limits of Miami and there is a definite and immediate need for such an addition.”

Noting the privately invested development, which already has existing roads and utilities, Thompson wrote, “This would appear to be rather obvious proof that the need for a new addition does not exist.”

Thompson has asked for an opportunity to address the council with his questions in a public forum, allowing Miami's residents to be involved in the “decision to spend hundreds of thousands of their tax dollars to compete against their fellow citizens on such an unneeded project.”

“If it is truly your desire to help needy people get housing, perhaps you should consider a financing program to help those who simply can't qualify for financing on a $100,000 home, as this is the bottom range for a new three bedroom home in Miami,” Thompson wrote.

When questioned about the city's decision to purchase undeveloped land, Miami Community Development Director Larry Eller said the proposed site better suits the needs of the project.

Eller said he had looked at the existing development several months ago as he first began to assess the housing market and found that the purchase price for the properties was high and infrastructure improvements would be necessary.

“This (proposed site) was just a better fit,” Eller said.

Eller said that he would look at the existing development again and encouraged the private investors to approach the city with a sales proposal.

Spurgeon acknowledged receipt of Thompson's letter at Monday's meeting of the council and provided council members with copies to ensure they have it to review prior to the Nov. 19 council meeting.

There was no further discussion on the matter. The issue is expected to be picked back up at the next council meeting.