Apr 25, 2024 - News

Cutler Bay opposes apartment project for unhoused people

La Quinta Inn in Cutler Bay

La Quinta Inn in Cutler Bay. Photo: Google Maps

A proposal to create low-income housing to lift people out of homelessness is getting pushback from Cutler Bay residents who don't want it in their backyard.

Why it matters: The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, which is seeking to purchase a La Quinta Inn and convert it into apartments, says transitioning people from shelters to permanent housing is crucial to ending homelessness.

  • The proposed $14 million purchase for the hotel at 10821 Caribbean Blvd. needs approval from the County Commission, which is expected to take the issue up next month.

Friction point: Residents and elected officials have raised concerns about potential impacts on the planned redevelopment of the Southland Mall across the street.

  • At meetings and in social media posts, residents have even questioned whether their new neighbors would shoot up drugs, threaten nearby schools or become strippers to make ends meet.
  • "We know that these types of citizens need to be served, but where they need to be served is the real question," Cutler Bay Mayor Tim Meerbott said at a November workshop.

The other side: Ron Book, chairman of the county-affiliated Homeless Trust, says the community backlash is an example of NIMBYism — a "not in my backyard" aversion to projects in someone's part of town.

  • Meerbott tells Axios that the NIMBY tag is disrespectful and dismissive of the voices of residents who have a different vision for their town center district.
  • "The town has reluctantly accepted the establishment of a homeless site within our boundaries, yet we strongly oppose the chosen location."

Context: The village has no power to prevent the sale or the apartment conversion because the La Quinta Inn is located in a county-controlled rapid transit zone that allows such zoning, the Miami Herald reported.

  • The sale agreement has been in place since September 2023.

The other side: Book has tried to address community concerns by promising security, background screenings, and a ban on predators or pedophiles.

  • He has said he cannot deny applicants solely because of a felony conviction, as had been requested by some critics, but that every application will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • The apartments would house about 107 tenants, and Book has committed that over 60% of them would be over 55 years old. (Cutler Bay wants the facility to exclusively serve those 65 and older.)

What they're saying: Book brought residents of a North Miami senior living complex to the November meeting to challenge stereotypes about those experiencing homelessness.

  • "They look just like the rest of our community, because they are."

The latest: County Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins, whose District 8 includes Cutler Bay, asked the county to search for alternative sites for the housing project, but staff found challenges with changing the location.

  • A county memo released this month and first reported by Local 10 shows four alternative sites, including three private residential properties and a vacant county-owned parcel.
  • The residential properties are smaller than the La Quinta Inn, and the redevelopment could displace the families already living there, the memo says.
  • The vacant county land is already envisioned for a transit-related development and doesn't meet the Homeless Trust's goal of converting existing properties into housing.
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