On November 10, Mayor Tim Keller announced his “Housing Forward ABQ” plan to add 5,000 housing units to the existing housing supply by 2025. Keller called his plan “transformative” and it includes updates to Albuquerque’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) to carry it out.
A zoning change already enacted by the city council earlier this year eased the process for city-funded motel conversions by allowing microwaves or hot plates to serve as a substitute for the standard requirement that every kitchen have a cooking stove or oven.
Mayor Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ” places great emphasis on “motel conversions”. “Motel conversions” includes affordable housing where the City’s Family & Community Services Department will acquire and renovate existing motels to develop low-income affordable housing options. Keller’s plan calls for hotel/motel conversions to house 1,000 people by 2025.
The existing layout of the motels makes it cost-prohibitive to renovate them into living units with full sized kitchens. An Integrated Development Ordinance amendment provides an exemption for affordable housing projects funded by the city, allowing kitchens to be small, without full-sized ovens and refrigerators. It will require city social services to regularly assist residents. The homeless or the near homeless would be offered the housing.
One area of the city that has been targeted in particular by the Keller Administration for motel conversions is “Hotel Circle” in the North East Heights. Located in the area are a number of motels in the largest shopping area in SE and NE Albuquerque near I-40. The businesses in the area include Target, Office Depot, Best Buy, Home Store, PetCo and the Mattress Store and restaurants such as Sadies, the Owl Café, and Applebee’s and other businesses.
The city is looking into buying potential properties and claims it has not yet completed any purchases.
Sources have confirmed the Keller Administration wants to buy the fomer Sure Stay Hotel located at 10330 Hotel Circle NE and also has its eye on purchasing the abandoned and boarded up Ramada Inn for a motel conversion. The City Department of Family & Community Services is in the process purchasing the Sure Stay Hotel by using Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding of $3,059,662.12 in Community Development Block Grant, $2,443,724.00 from Public Facilities monies and $615,938.12 from Foreclosure Prevention for a total property purchase of $6,119,324.24. She also outlines how the Department of Family and Community Services has submitted a request to the HUD Albuquerque Field Office for the release of CARES and HOME American Rescue Plan funding to be used to purchase Sure Stay Hotel and the renovation project for the permanent housing with supportive services.
Strong neighborhood and business opposition has emerged and galvanized around the city’s attempted purchase of the Sure Stay Motel, with some petitioning the city to change the zoning code to disallow motel conversions. A petition with well over 250 signatures of business owners and residents in the area was secured within a few days has been submitted to the city.
CITY’S FINANCIAL COMMITMENT TO HELP LOW INCOME HOUSING
On June 23, 2022 Mayor Tim Keller announced that the City of Albuquerque was adding $48 million to the FY23 budget to address housing and homelessness issues in Albuquerque. The City also announced it was working on policy changes to create more housing and make housing more accessible. The key appropriations passed by City Council included in the $48 million are:
- $20.7 million for affordable and supportive housing
· $1.5 million for improvements to the Westside Emergency Housing Center
· $4 million to expand the Wellness Hotel Program
· $7 million for a youth shelter
· $6.8 million for medical respite and sobering centers
· $7 million for Gateway Phases I and II, and improvements to the Gibson Gateway Shelter facility
· $555,000 for services including mental health and food insecurity prevention
The link to the quoted source is here:
In fiscal year 2021 (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021) the Family and Community Services Department and the Keller Administration spent upwards of $40 Million to benefit the homeless, near homeless including affordable housing initiatives. The 2021 enacted city budget (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 ) for Family and Community Services Department provides for affordable housing and community contracts totaling $22,531,752, emergency shelter contracts totaling $5,688,094, homeless support services contracts totaling $3,384,212, mental health contracts totaling $4,329,452, and substance abuse contracts for counseling contracts totaling $2,586,302.
The link to the 2021-2022 city approved budget is here:
Mayor Keller has increased funding to the Family Community Services Department for assistance to the homeless with $35,145,851 million spent in fiscal year 2021 and $59,498,915 million being spent in fiscal 2022 with the city adopting a “housing first” policy.
Mayor Keller’s 2022-2023 approved budget significantly increases the Family and Community Services budget by $24,353,064 to assist the homeless or near homeless by going from $35,145,851 to $59,498,915.
The 2022-2023 enacted budget for the Department of Community Services is $72.4 million and the department is funded for 335 full time employees, an increase of 22 full time employees. A breakdown of the amounts to help the homeless and those in need of housing assistance is as follows:
$42,598,361 total for affordable housing and community contracts with a major emphasis on permanent housing for chronically homeless. It is $24,353,064 more than last year.
$6,025,544 total for emergency shelter contracts (Budget page 102.), down $396,354 from last year.
$3,773,860 total for mental health contracts (Budget page105.), down $604,244 from last year.
$4,282,794 total for homeless support services, up $658,581 from last year.
$2,818,356 total substance abuse contracts for counseling (Budget page 106.), up by $288,680 from last year.
The link to the 2022-2023 budget it here:
The 2022-2023 adopted city contains $4 million in recurring funding and $2 million in one-time funding for supportive housing programs in the City’s Housing First model and $24 million in Emergency Rental Assistance from the federal government.
TWO PUBLIC MEETINGS TO BE HELD ON MOTEL CONVERSIONS
The city’s Family and Community Services Department announced it is hosting a public meeting to discuss motel conversions. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, December 6 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Albuquerque Convention Center. The city requested attendees RSVP.
Katie Simon, a city spokeswoman, said the reason the city is holding the informational meeting is to address the publics concerns about motel conversions and said this:
“We hope to really educate about what we’re trying to do with these projects. I think there’s a lot of misinformation and just not a lot of understanding about what the vision is for these conversions.”
For more information on the meeting and to RSVP, go online to https://bit.ly/3VHHVqB.
Within hours of giving notice of the December 6 meeting and requesting RSVPs from the public, the city announced that reservations were no longer being accepted for the first event and that it was was “sold out”. The event is in fact free of charge but the reservation app was not modified to state “reservations closed”. In response to the public outcry, the city added an additional public meeting to discuss its plans to convert hotels into permanent housing. The second meeting will be virtual and is scheduled for Tuesday, December 13.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
There is absolutely no doubt that the Keller Administration and the Family and Community Services Department is hosting the public meetings to discuss motel conversions simply because the issue has resulted in a severe backlash. Giving a 4 day notice on a Friday of a public meeting and then asking for RSVP from the public was nothing more than a ploy to suppress attendance by hoping no one would see the notice. It’s a ploy that did not work and the city was inundated with reservation requests forcing the city to schedule a second meeting.
It was downright offensive for City Spokesperson Katie Simon to say that the purpose of meeting is to try and educate what the city is trying to do with motel conversions and saying there’s a “lot of misinformation about them”. The public and the business community are not ignorant. They know what is going on and have legitimate concerns that motel conversions will destroy neighborhoods and established business areas.
The comments given by Simon give the definite impression that the meetings are not for the city to listen to public concerns but to “educate the public”, in other word’s lecture the public, and the public will not be allowed to ask questions and without any consideration of the neighboring businesses or residents.
The public has already gone down a similar road of being totally ignored by Mayor Tim Keller, his Family and Community Services Division and the Planning Department and the City Council when it comes to “Safe Outdoor Spaces” which are city sanctioned homeless tent encampments for upwards of 50 tents. Despite public opposition and outcry, the city amended the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) to allow for 2 Safe Outdoor Space homeless tent encampments in each of the 9 City Council Districts with at least 3 already approved. One Safe Outdoor Space approved for 1250 Menaul for woman who have been victims of sex trafficking’s is being appealed by the Santa Barbera Neighborhood Association, Menaul School and the Crown Plaza Hotel with 3 others. There is also city council legislation pending to repeal Safe Outdoor Spaces.
It’s the Family and Community Service Division that is spear heading both “motel conversions” and Safe Outdoor Spaces to the point of cramming both down the publics throats despite strong public opposition. The department works closely with and gives preferential treatment to Safe Outdoor Space applicants by offering funding to operate and identifies city and federal funding to purchase abandoned or vacant motels for motel conversions usually all done behind closed doors.
Given the millions already being spent by the Keller Administration on affordable and supportive housing, the biggest unanswered question is does the city have any business going into the “hotel conversion” business and begin operating such facilities? Further, how many motels have been identified for purchase to achieve the 1,000 unit goal and for what amounts and what are the locations? It will be interesting to see of Mayor Tim Keller or any City Councilor will show up at either meeting.
The public is encouraged to attend either the December 6 or the December 13 meeting and voice their concerns.