This blog article is an in-depth, point by point, analysis of Mayor Tim Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ Plan.” It ends with Commentary and Analysis concluding that Keller’s “Housing Forward Plan” and the accompanying amendments to the Integrated Development Ordinance allowing “casitas, “two-family duplex” additions and “motels conversions” are faux solutions to Keller’s inflated housing crisis shortage. It’s a plan that has been met with extreme public hostility and mistrust and should be rejected by the City Council.
“HOUSING FORWARD ABQ” PLAN.
On October 18, Mayor Tim Keller announced his “Housing Forward ABQ Plan.” It is a “multifaceted initiative” where Mayor Keller has set the goal of adding 5,000 new housing units across the city by 2025 above and beyond what private industry normally creates each year. According to Keller, the city is in a major “housing crisis” and the city needs as many as 33,000 new housing units immediately.
During his October 18 news conference announcing his “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” Keller Keller himself used the 33,000 figure to declare a housing crisis. He emphasized the importance of amending the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO). Keller said this:
“Right now our zoning code will never allow us to meet the housing demand in the city … If you want a place to advocate, if you want a place to change policy, if you want a place to argue, it’s all about the IDO [Integrated Development Ordinance] . … The proposed changes are intended to be transformative, which is fitting for the crisis facing our local government, thousands of families in our community, and our housing partners.”
The links to relied upon and quoted news sources are here:
KELLER EXAGGERATS A HOUSING “CRUNCH” INTO A HOUSING “CRISIS”
When Keller first announced his plan, he said the city has an immediate 33,000 unit need for housing and there is a housing shortage crisis. However city materials distributed to the public say the city needs 13,000 to 28,000 more units. Keller and his city hall minions have never elaborated exactly how the statistics were determined and what surveys or reports were relied upon to declare a “housing crisis.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS The housing shortage is related to economics and the development community’s inability to keep up with supply and demand and the public’s inability to purchase housing and qualify for long term housing mortgage loans. There is also a shortage of rental properties, but there is an apartment construction boom going on in the city.
HOMELESS CRISIS USED TO PROMOTE “HOUSING FORWARD ABQ” PLAN
At two of the public meetings, Keller Administration officials have used the homeless crisis and numbers to promote the “HOUSING FORWARD ABQ Plan ” ignoring that it really has nothing to do with the homeless crisis but everything to do with increasing housing density for all income levels. Over the last 2 years, the Keller Administration has spent $100 million on homeless programs including 2 shelters and city government subsidized housing.
INFLATING THE NUMBERS
Keller declaring that the city needs 33,000 housing units immediately was an exaggeration based on the City’s actual growth population and what is needed for that population growth. Keller also ignores the apartment construction spike that is going on in the city.
The current metro area population of Albuquerque in 2023 is 955,000, a 1.38% increase from 2022 population of 942,000 or 13,000 increase.
The metro area population of Albuquerque in 2022 was 942,000, a 1.4% increase from 2021 of 929,000.
Alan LeSeck, Apartment Association of New Mexico executive director, recently told the Albuquerque Journal the current market is “very hot,” due partially to the lack of apartment development dating back to before the pandemic. Since 2013, and prior to 2020, LaSeck said Albuquerque was averaging about 500 new units a year, below what the city needed to accommodate new residents. LaSeck said that, for every 10,000 new residents, there needs to be about 3,400 apartments since about 34% of people typically rent.
Keller has never discussed nor revealed to what extent the residential development and apartment development are going on in the city. Keller simply declares there is a housing crisis. At all 5 of the public meetings, city officials did not discuss the extent of residential construction going on in the city.
In November, 2022, it was reported that in the Albuquerque metro area, new permits issued by the city for apartment building construction have spiked dramatically. Building permits for a total of 4,021 new housing units were issued in the metro area in 2021 of which 35.1% are for units in buildings with 5 housing units or more with many currently under construction.
Five years ago only 20.3% of all permits for new housing units were for buildings with at least five units. The 14.8% point change for new apartment construction from 2016 to 2021 ranks as the 10th largest increase among all U.S. metro areas.
In Albuquerque, about 2,000 units across 12 properties are already under construction, with an additional 2,485 units planned across 16 properties and 5,143 prospective units.
PUBLIC MEETINGS HELD
In March and April, the Keller Administration held a series of 5 public meetings scheduled for 1 hour and 30 minutes in the Downtown Area, Southwest Area, Southeast Area, Northeast Area, and the Northwest Area of the city in order to explain the Housing Foreword ABQ Plan to the public with 4 attended by Pete Dinelli for reporting on www.PeteDinelli.com. The public meetings were open to the public but the city asked that reservations be made on line.
The link to review slide presentation used by the Mayor’s office and city officials is here:
Mayor Tim Keller and all 9 members of the city council did not attend a single meeting. The turnouts were considered high with between 50 and 100 people in attendance at each of the locations. Given the nature of the questioning, attendance consisted predominantly of angry property owners. The city’s slide presentations were made to audiences by various city departments including the Mayor’s Office, the Family and Community Services Department and the Planning Department. A representative of the Albuquerque Police Department attended only the Decemeber meeting.
The presentations were broken down into two sperate areas of concentration. The two areas were:
- The city’s overall efforts and goals to increase housing supply in the city and promoting access to housing for all income levels and increasing low-income rentals units which would include “motel conversions”. The city wants to acquire existing motels and remodel them and create 1,000 low-income housing units.
- The major proposed zoning change amendments to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) that will allow the construction of “Casitas” and/or “Two Family Home” additions as “permissive uses” and not “conditional uses” and changes increasing height restrictions and eliminating parking restrictions. “Casitas” and “Two Family Home” additions would be allowed on every single existing residential lot that already has single family housing in order to increase density. According to city officials, there are 120,000 residential lots that have existing residential structures. With the construction of “casitas” and “two family home” additions, density could double to 240,000 with casita structures alone or triple to 360,000 with both casitas and two family home additions.
The city officials emphasized that the “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” was merely a proposal and ultimately the City Council will decide what to do when it came to amendments to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO).
Throughout the presentations, the audiences were advised by the city officials present they were only there to gather information. Notwithstanding what they said, the appearance was that the city officials were promoting Mayor Keller’s plan and not interested in what the public really had to say.
After the presentations, the audience was allowed to ask questions during the limited amount of time remaining. Because of time constraints, only those called upon by the City presenters during the allotted time remaining were allowed to ask questions.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
A “conditional use” requires an application process with the city, notice to surrounding property owners with appeal rights. A “permissive use” would give the Planning Department exclusive authority issue permits for construction without notices and hearings.
City officials said at the public meeting that covenants and restrictions contained in warranty deeds prohibiting construction of casitas and two family duplex construction on existing housing were not the city’s concern when it came to issuing permits for a casita or a two family duplex development even when covenants and restrictions prohibited such development. The city officials proclaimed enforcement of real property covenants and restrictions were a private matter for enforcement between adjoining property owners by means of litigation.
One very offensive argument made by the city official outlining the zoning changes is that many covenants and restrictions are racist preventing people of color from buying and purchasing real property and living in residential developments. The blunt truth is those covenants and restrictions based on race were declared back in the 1940’s and 1950’s as unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court and are totally unenforceable and were set aside by the court. Construction, set back restrictions and use covenants are very much enforceable and have absolutely nothing to do with race despite what was being implied by the city official.
KELLER’S HOUSING FOREWARD ABQ PLAN OUTLINED
The following information was gleaned by the author of this blog article from attending the 4 public meetings sponsored by the Keller Administration and handout materials provided to the public:
To add the 5,000 new housing units across the city by 2025, Keller is proposing that the City of Albuquerque fund and be involved with the construction of new low-income housing. The strategy includes “motel conversions” and a zoning code “rebalance” to increase population density. It includes allowing “casitas” which under the zoning code are formally known as “accessory dwelling” units.
Keller wants to allow “different forms of multi-unit housing types” on existing residential properties. City officials said that 68% of the city’s existing housing is single-family detached homes with 120,000 existing residential lots with already built residences. The amendment will allow one “casita” and one “accessory dwelling” unit on all built out lots which could double density to 240,000 housing units or triple density to 360,000 housing units.
According to Keller’ plan, the city wants to convert commercial office space into to residential use. The Keller administration is proposing $5 million to offset developer costs with the aim of transitioning 10 commercial properties and creating 1,000 new housing units. The new plan also includes “motel conversations” where the city will purchase, remodel and update old and existing motels into low income housing. Keller “Housing Forward ABQ” plan includes bolstering the construction workforce and address current renter concerns.
RESIDENTIAL RENTAL PERMIT ORDINANCE
The Keller Administration made a part of the “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” the “Residential Rental Permit Ordinance” sponsored by District 7 Albuquerque City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn to protect tenants from “predatory practices such as excessive application fees, clarifying that deposits must be refundable and capping other fees, especially in complexes that accept vouchers”.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS On March 6 the “Residential Rental Permit Ordinance” failed on a 4-5 vote after strenuous and organized objections from property owners and the apartment industry. The private sector argued successfully that property rights and ownership and contract rights were being infringed upon, that the ordinance and the mandatory fee schedule was excessive and the ordinance was not needed because of existing state law, including the Unfair Trade Practices Act, and that ordinance was a form of and promoted rent control with existing state law protecting both tenant and property owner rights to contract. The New Mexico State legislature has voted NO on enacting rent control legislation.
INCREASING THE SUPPLY OF HOUSING FOR ALL RESIDENTS
According to materials prepared by the Keller Administration and handed out at the 5 public meetings, the city launched the Housing Forward ABQ Plan initiative as “an urgent initiative to strengthen access to housing and spur conversion and construction of much-needed new housing for all income levels. The city argues that addressing the availability of housing is key to the safety of prosperity of residents, to ensuring multigenerational families always have a place … [to] call home …].
The Keller Administrations specific proposals to increasing the city’s housing supply include the following 6 proposals:
- The city acquiring and allowing the conversion of existing hotel or motel properties for affordable housing. According to the Family and Community Services Department, the city already owns and operates 8 apartment complexes that provides upwards of 500 low income or affordable housing units. The Family Community Services Department is in the process of acquiring the Sure Stay Motel at Hotel Circle and plans to convert it into low income housing. (SEE MORE BELOW.) COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS: On March 1 it was reported that the City of Albuquerque is moving forward with its plans to transform hotels and motels into housing units for low-income housing by issuing a Request for Information (RIF) from any and all property owners who might be interested in selling their motels or renovating them into affordable housing units. The city is moving forward with the plan despite objections from the private sector, affected business owners, neighborhood associations and community activist organizations such as “Woman Taking Back Our Neighborhoods”. The city has yet to disclose how many responses they have received to the RIF. The link to the full news report is here: https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/albuquerque-moves-forward-with-plan-to-transform-hotels-motels-into-housing-units/
- Converting existing vacant commercial office buildings to housing. City officials have acknowledged that this will be “heavy lifting” by the city. According to the City, the short supply of housing in Albuquerque is in stark contrast to the large supply of vacant or underutilized commercial and office properties. The city is proposing a $5 million housing conversion fund using city, state and federal funding to facilitate the conversion of at least 10 commercial, office buildings into housing, creating at least 1,000 new residential units by 2025.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Keller pushing to convert commercial office space into to residential is misplaced and presumes that commercial property owners are amenable to replacing their more lucrative commercial property with residential property which is a complete reversal from what happens. It is far more common for residential property owners to seek commercial zoning changes for their properties. The city has failed to identify what interest commercial property owners have in converting commercial properties into residential property.
- EXPANDING NUISANCE ABATEMENT LAWS. Under the “Housing Forward Plan” properties that are magnets for crime including drug trafficking, human trafficking and gun violence will be the focus of stronger enforcement of nuisance abatement laws. Where possible and appropriate, these properties will be converted to housing units.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
City Councilor Pat Davis is the sponsor of 023-75 which will amend the city’s current nuisance abatement ordinance to include additional crimes to be added to determine if a property is a nuisance and a city administrative hearing officer component will be added without having to go to court. The current city nuisance abatement ordinance is one of the strongest in the country, it was amended extensively even before City Councilor Davis was elected. It does not need amending nor strengthening but needs to be enforced as written.
The City of Albuquerque already has one of the strongest nuisance abatement ordinances in the country. The State of New Mexico has one of the strongest nuisance laws on the books.
Normally, a nuisance is defined in terms of an “activity” that endangers the public health and safety and welfare. The New Mexico state legislature has enacted a statute that empowers all municipalities to define and abate a nuisance as they see fit. Under the Albuquerque nuisance abatement ordinance, the City Council defines a nuisance in terms of real property, not an activity, both commercial or residential, that is used to assist, promote, facilitate or involved with criminal activity and the real property can be declared a nuisance by a court of law. The city Planning Department can also take administrative enforcement action known as a “Notice and Order” where the property is inspected then posted substandard when code violations are found and ordered vacated and boarded up. Property owners are given notice of city code violations and order to make repairs at their own expense.
In 2004, the city’s Nuisance Abetment Ordinance was amended extensively to include all state felony and misdemeanors as well as all city code violations (plumbing, electrical, gas and construction) in order to be included for consideration to determine that a property is nuisance. Reliance is made on the number of calls for service to APD to declare a property a nuisance.
Under state law, a nuisance is defined as a single act or activities that endangers the public health, safety and welfare. A public nuisance is a misdemeanor but a civil District Court injunctive court action under the rules of civil procedure is used to abate such nuisances.
Both the city and state laws are enforced through the State District Courts relying the Rules of Civil Procedure to secure injunctive relief in the form of Temporary, Preliminary or Permanent Injunctions. Injunctive relief actions are fast tracked by the courts and a temporary restraining order can be secured in within 10 days at the outset.
From 2002 to 2009, the Safe City Strike Force was formed to combat blighted commercial and residential properties and Deputy City Attorney Pete Dinelli was the Director the full 7 years. Existing city nuisance abatement ordinances and state laws were enforced by filing civil lawsuits in State District Court to abate the nuisances. Thirty (30) to forty-five (40) representatives from the Albuquerque Police Department, the Albuquerque Fire Department, the Fire Marshal’s Office, the Planning Department Code residential and commercial code inspectors, Family Community Services and the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office participated and comprised the strike force.
Seventy (70) to one hundred fifty (150) properties a week, both residential and commercial properties, would be reviewed by the Safe City Strike Force. The Albuquerque City Council would be given weekly updates on the progress made in their districts on the nuisance properties identified by the Strike Force. The City Attorney’s office routinely conducted interventions with property owners along with their attorneys and would negotiate nuisance abatement agreements as well as voluntary tear down agreements. The city would contract a private company to do the tear downs and clean ups and a lien would be placed on the property. The Planning Department Code Enforcement Division component of the Safe City Strike Force routinely prepared condemnation resolutions for enactment by the Albuquerque City Council to tear down substandard buildings, including commercial buildings and private residences.
Over 8 years, the Safe City Strike Force took civil code enforcement action and went to court against some 6,500 residential property owners and slum lords and commercial property that were nuisance properties and magnets for crime. The net result was that the city was cleaned up on many levels. Administrative actions and court action were taken against slum lords, residential home owners , motel and hotels along central, violent bars and convenience stores and flea markets. 8 motels were torn down. The Strike Force had success rate of 100% when it went to court to enforce the city and state nuisance abatement laws.
It was Mayor Keller who totally defunded and eventually completely disbanded the Safe City Strike Force in 2019, despite being a nationally recognized best practice, replacing it with his ineffective Problem Properties Program (PPP) and the “Addressing Dilapidated and Abandoned Property Team” (ADAPT) Program. The success of these 2 Keller created programs have fallen short of the success of the Safe City Strike Force.
It’s more likely than not that the unintended consequences of the changes proposed by City Councilor Pat Davis and his 023-75 will undermine the city’s enforcement authority and efforts in that there will be less reliance on the District Courts which is a major mistake. State District Courts have primary jurisdiction, known as in rem jurisdiction, over real property matters and rights. The city’s creation of an administrative “in house” proceeding dealing with property owners and rights will likely be viewed as a conflict of interest and will be a failure and likely challenged in court, as was the case with the city’s now defunct DWI vehicle forfeiture program created under the city’s nuisance abatement ordinance.
- EXPANDING THE HOUSING WORKFORCE. According to the city, one of the biggest challenges to bringing more new or repurposed housing on line is the limited availability of construction crews to complete projects. To expand capacity to carry out needed housing initiatives, Albuquerque will need to attract, train and incentivize more construction crews to carry out small, medium and large projects. Using the Job Training Albuquerque program as a model, as well as other state workforce development programs, the City will work with industry and building trades leaders to ramp up workforce capacity for building additional housing. The goal is to help train at least 250 new housing and construction workers by 2025.
- ALLOWING MORE OPTIONS IN HOUSING TYPE IN CITY ZONING CODE. According to the city, 63% of all housing in Albuquerque is single family detached. The Keller Administration wants to removing barriers to the construction and renovation of more diverse housing types and views it as critical to accommodating the needs of the various populations in our city, from seniors to families and students. One goal of the HOUSING FOREWARD ABQ PLAN is to amend the Integrated Development Ordinance to provide more options and make it more flexible and easier for developers. Three proposed zoning changes are:
A. INCREASING AVAILABILITY OF CASITAS (ACCESSORY DWELLING UNITS ADUS). The city is proposing modifications to the Integrated Development Ordinance to allow more construction and conversion projects in appropriately zoned areas for smaller living area conversions or “casitas.” The Keller Administration argues allowing more construction of these units will increase the supply of affordable housing while providing additional income for current property owners. With this change the city hopes the number of ADUs will increase by at least 1,000 units by 2025.
B. INCREASING AVAILABILITY OF DIVERSE HOUSING OPTIONS. According to city officials, the number of multi-unit housing options is far below needed levels to provide residents with the needed range of options in housing type, regardless of whether they are renters or home owners. The city claims that by amending the Integrated Development Ordinance to allow developers more options for housing conversion and construction, residents will be able to find housing that meets their financial and family needs. With the proposed zoning changes, the city is hoping the number of multi-unit housing options will increase by at least 1,000 units by 2025.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The proposals of increasing availability of casitas and increasing availability of diverse housing options were received at all 5 area meetings with noticeable hostility and mistrust by the general public. At the Southeast Area public meeting, one known progressive activist declared that Keller’s proposal of casitas was akin to Mayor Richard Berry’s disastrous ART Bus project that has destroyed Central. She said that Keller’s proposal will destroy the city even further. Additional commentary and analysis on casitas and two family dwellings is below.
C. ADJUSTING PARKING REQUIREMENTS. Another modification to the Integrate Development Ordinance proposed by the Keller Administration is to allow housing developers to adjust parking requirements in appropriately zoned areas to promote higher density and more infill housing. With this change, the Keller administrations is hoping the number of diverse new housing options increase by at least 1,000units by 2025.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Make no mistake about it. Less parking means more rental units. Developers will always do whatever they can to reduce the availability of needed parking in order to have more land to build upon and to increase their over all profit margins.
- Creating a Housing Stability Fund with $750,000 funding for a landlord mitigation fund to help Albuquerque landlords rent to prospective tenants who might be considered higher risk based n credit history, income, or other concerns.
Mayor Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ” places great emphasis on “motel conversions”. A zoning change already enacted by the city council in early 2022 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. “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 or motel conversions to house 1,000 people by 2025.
The Keller Administration proclaims that motel conversions are a critical strategy for addressing the city’s housing shortage. The city proclaims motels conversions are a simpler, lower-cost alternative to ground-up construction. It will require city social services to regularly assist residents. The homeless or the near homeless would be offered the housing likely on a first come first served basis and with rules and regulations they will have to agree to.
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.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The city offering motel conversion accommodations to the unhoused will likely be just as futile as offering shelter to the unhoused. The city will likely place restrictions on those accommodations such as not having a criminal record or engaging in illicit drug use. Rules and regulations are often rejected by the unhoused.
CITY BUYS “SURE STAY” HOTEL
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. The area is considered a “high crime” volume area because of the thousands of APD calls for service to deal with crime at the motels. Located in the area are not only a number of motels but it is also 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.
On February 11 it was reported that the City of Albuquerque has executed a purchase agreement for the purchase of the Sure Stay Hotel located at 10330 Hotel NE for $5.7 million to convert the 104-room hotel into 100 efficiency units. The $5.7 million purchase price for the 104-unit complex translates into $53,807.69 per unit ($5.7 Million ÷ 104 = $53,807.69 per unit).
At a December 6, 2022 meeting on motel conversions, city officials said that the city’s estimated cost is $100,000 per unit to fix up or remodel existing motels. Using the city’s own estimated remodeling costs for the Sure Stay Motel, an additional $10 Million will be needed to remodel the motel for low income housing. ($100,000 per unit X 100 efficiency apartments = $10 Million). Therefore, the entire Sure Stay conversion project will have an estimated cost of $15,700,000. ($5.7 purchase cost + $10 Million remodeling cost = $15,700,000)
City officials have said the purchase should close this spring and said the project’s total cost, including necessary renovations of the Sure Stay hotel will not be known until later this year as the city still must put the work out to bid. The goal is to have the converted motel open for housing within a year. City officials have said funding is available for at least one additional motel purchase.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Mayor Tim Keller has given his Family and Community Services Department an astonishing amount of authority and funding to acquire existing motels and hotels and they are doing so with little or no oversight by the Albuquerque City Council. At one of his recent telephone town hall meeting, Keller proclaimed that if he had it his way, the city would purchase all derelict motels along Central and convert them into low-income housing.
Simply put, this is the acquisition of private property to promote a politcal agenda to supplement the housing market and the private sector when the city should be concentrating on providing basic essential services. The biggest issue is does the city have any business getting involved with the motel-hotel conversion business and should there be any limit on the number of housing units the city can have in its inventory for low-income housing? The city already owns and operates 8 existing housing facilities with 500 units managed by the Family Community Services Department and Keller wants to triple that number by adding 1,000 units to the city’s inventory of low-income housing.
CITY COUNCIL ORDINANCE 0-22-54
The most controversial provision of Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ” plan is the introduction and pending consideration by the City Council of City Council Ordinance 0-22-54. Mayor Keller has called the legislation “transformative” updates to Albuquerque’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) to carry out his “Housing Forward ABQ”. The one thing transformative about it is that it will transform existing neighborhoods into something unrecognizable.
0-22-54 AMENDMENT HIGHLIGHTS
Under the Integrated Development Ordinance, a “conditional use” requires an application process with the city, notice to surrounding property owners with appeal rights. A “permissive use” would give the Planning Department exclusive authority issue permits for construction without notices and hearings. Both Casitas and Two Family Home additions are now “conditional uses” and with the amendment would be “permissive uses”. Adjoining property owners of or neighborhoods would no longer have appeal rights and would be required to go to court to enforce covenants and restrictions.
Mayor Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ” involves six major amendments embodied in city council resolution 0-22-54 to Albuquerque’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) which is the City’s Zoning laws and now pending before the city council. The amendments are:
1) Allow two family dwellings (duplexes) in R-1 residential zones, permissively, with no public hearing, citywide.
One of the key proposed zoning amendments to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) is to allow two-family homes in all R-1 zones citywide, except in small areas where distinct rules apply. Today, two-family homes are allowed in a small fraction of the R-1 zones in Albuquerque. However, the combined total of R-1 zones amount to 68% of zoned properties in Albuquerque. The Keller Administration argues that by opening up the current restrictive zoning code two-family homes, housing density can increase throughout the city and add more housing options for all income levels.
Currently two-family homes are allowed in R-1A zone. The proposed change would allow two-family homes in all R-1 zones, which would allow conversions and new construction at the scale of single-family houses in neighborhoods throughout the city. Under the proposed amendments, going forward those would be called “two-family homes”. 750 square foot additions would be allowed on existing residence as a “permissive use” to create a “duplex” or “two family” home.
2) Allow Accessory Dwelling units (ADUs) known as “casitas” with kitchens in all R-1 residential zones, permissively citywide.
Casitas are small, detached residential homes located on the same lot as an existing single family home. The amendment as proposed will allow 750 square foot “casitas” in the R-1 zones citywide, except in small areas where distinct rules apply. Currently casitas with kitchens are only allowed in small areas and just two corridors in R-1 zones. Under the zone change, casitas would be allowed only in the side or rear yard on lots with enough room to meet all setbacks and other requirements. They would be limited to 750 square feet and would require one off-street parking space.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
“R-1” zoning is single family home lot zoning. Upwards of 68% of all residential property zoned in the city is zoned R-1 encompassing 23% of the city’s total geographic area. Currently, only R-1 properties, or single-family home lots, are allowed to build a casita and those properties are downtown and along parts of Central meeting the proper requirements. The proposed legislation to allow both casitas and “two family homes” will dramatically increase options in “R-1” residential zones. This is speculative and will be contingent on private funding.
The proposed legislation will allow both detached “casitas” up to 750 square feet and 750 square foot “duplex construction” additions on all existing residential lots. This amendment will impact areas zoned for single-family homes by allowing duplexes and “casitas” accessory dwelling units on lots with sufficient available space.
According to city officials, there are 120,000 residential lots that have existing residential structures. With the construction of “casitas” and “two family home” additions, density could double to 240,000 with casita structures alone or triple to 360,000 with both casitas and two-family home additions which will be allowed. This plan is just plain nuts and it will have a dramatic, negative impact on all existing neighborhoods by increasing density to unacceptable levels.
The Keller Administration is claiming two-family homes are created most often when people convert part of their homes into a separate dwelling units. During the public meetings, Keller City Officials went to great lengths to characterize casitas as “mother in law” quarters, when in fact experience shows such casitas normally are not used personally by the property owner but used for rental income including and small businesses.
A major risk that exists will the reclassification zoning of all single family lots to allow residential duplex development and casita development will encourage large private investors and real estate developers, including out-of-state corporate entities, to buy up or lease and covert whole blocks into rental duplexes with substandard rental casitas. This will dramatically degrade the character of neighborhoods and the City as a whole.
An individual investor will be able to purchase single family homes for rental, add a 750 square foot two family home addition and build a separate 750 foot free standing casita and which will result in a one home rental being converted into 3 separate rental units. Such development will decrease the availability of affordable homes and raise rental prices even higher.
3) Exempt office and hotels that convert to multifamily apartments from having to put in a full kitchen. The city claims his will simplify plans to convert hotels into affordable housing. It would loosen restrictions that require each unit to have a stove or oven inside with city planners saying there’s a market for it. This zoning change will make it easier to convert commercial office space into residential dwellings and in particular efficiency apartments or loft apartments with no bedrooms and a single combined living, cooking and sleeping area.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Developers converting non-residential buildings to multi-family housing would not have to meet the existing kitchen standard of having a cooking stove, range or oven in each unit. They would only have to provide a microwave, hotplate or warming device. The bill seeks to extend the existing exemption that currently applies only to city-funded projects to developers to replace the standard kitchen oven or stove with a microwave or hot plate when turning hotels or other commercial buildings into permanent housing.
4) Eliminate building height limits in R-ML and MX(mixed use zones). This would affect much of the west side, as well as the rest of the City.
Ordinance O-22-54 aims to eliminate building height maximums for multi-family residential development and mixed-use development, except in small areas where distinct rules apply. Any commercial or apartment building within 100 feet of a single-family home, townhouse, or duplex can only be a maximum of 30 feet tall. At more than 100 feet away the building height maximum is determined by the zoning.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYIS:
It’s simply astonishing that this proposal gets rid of building height restrictions for multi-family developments. The amendment relaxes rules for apartment development and eliminates height limits for mixed-use development and for multi-family housing such as apartments in the highest-density residential zone. What is happening now is that neighborhoods are already taking issue with multi story apartment complexes being built obstructing views and increasing density affecting traffic patterns and lack of parking.
Currently, height limits in those areas vary. In the high-density residential zone today, caps range from 48 to 65 feet, though certain types of projects earn bonuses that raise the limit to 77 feet. In mixed-use zones, present limits range from 30 to 75 feet, though they could reach 111 feet with structured parking and other project bonuses.
Casitas build in the backyard of existing residents must be the same height of the existing residence. However the building of “casitas” that are taller than the primary structure will be allowed on side lot areas of the property. Eliminating maximum building heights on the side area of a lot removes a regulatory barrier to development projects as an attempt to increase density and ultimately will have a dramatic impact on existing neighborhoods.
5) Exempt affordable housing from parking requirements.
This would reduce or eliminate street parking requirements for multi-family and affordable housing developments. The city argues the practice of mandating adequate parking spaces contributes significantly to the cost of housing projects and claims mandated parking minimums increase rent or mortgage by $200-$500 per month. The city argued that reducing parking requirements would allow developers to build more housing for all income levels and allow housing developers to provide what they feel is an appropriate amount of parking for development in mixed-use zones to promote higher density and more infill housing.
The false presumption with this zone change is that low income housing residents do not have their own vehicles they rely upon for transportation to and from work. Eliminating mandatory parking availability is a recipe for disaster.
6) Reduce parking requirements for multi-family/apartments by 75 %.
This sixth proposal also loosens and reduces parking restrictions at affordable housing and apartment complexes. The amendment will change parking requirements and will exempt projects where at least 20% of the residential units will be affordable housing from providing off-street parking and reduces current requirements for other multi-family and mixed-use developments by 75%. Under existing zoning requirements, a multi-family development needs 1-1.8 off-street parking spaces per dwelling unit generally based on the number of bedrooms per apartment.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The false presumption with this zone change is that low-income housing residents do not have their own vehicles they rely upon for transportation to and from work. Eliminating mandatory parking availability is another recipe for disaster.
CAPPING SHORT TERM RENTAL UNITS
Another controversial provision of Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ” plan is the introduction and pending consideration by the City Council of City Council Ordinance 0-23-69 seeking to regulate and cap short term rentals, also known as “Bed and Breakfast” rental units. The Keller Administration argues that there is a need to protect existing housing stock to make it available to all permanent residents and future residents so that they will always have access to a safe, stable home. Enacting the proposed changes of Council Bill No. 0-23-69 will:
- Require all short-term rental units to have a local property manager (or Short-Term Rental Manager, “STRM”) available (within 20 miles of the City limits) to respond to maintenance and security concerns.
- Limit short-term rental permits to three per natural person.
- Limit the number of Short-Term Rental permits issued citywide to no more than 1,200, based on current monthly average of active STRs.
- Increase the civil penalties for non-compliance with the ordinance.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
EDITOR’S DISLOSURE: The below commentary was provided by Associate Broker Carl Vidal with the Irvie Homes Property Management.
Despite Mayor Keller’s claims that short-term rentals reduce available housing to permanent residents, there is no evidence that banning or capping the number will increase the city’s overall housing supply to permanent residents. AirDNA, a leader in short-term rental data, reports that 66% of short-term rentals in Albuquerque are part-time units. These homes are rented out periodically by locals to support their families and cover monthly bills. The locals often reside in these homes while they’re not rented. In Albuquerque, short-term rentals account for only 0.007% of the housing inventory, and only 0.003% if we consider just full-time rentals.
Short-term rentals have significantly contributed to Albuquerque’s economy, generating an impressive $216 million in economic impact and creating over 2,280 jobs locally. Moreover, the city, state, and county have collected around $14 million in taxes in 2022 alone from these rentals. With over 2,500 hosts leasing short-term rentals across the city, last year’s 431,000 guests spent an average of $361 per overnight visit. These figures demonstrate the essential role of short-term rentals in the city’s economy, making them a vital asset that should be allowed to exist and thrive..
Short-term rentals play a crucial role in providing housing for transient workers in various industries, including healthcare traveling nurses and locum doctors, traveling contractors, actors, directors, film workers, and staff from Intel, Facebook, Sandia Labs, and Kirtland Airforce Base. These rentals serve as a lifeline for workers who would otherwise struggle to find affordable housing during their stay. Without short-term rentals, many of these workers simply will not be able to find housing locally, highlighting the critical role these rentals play in supporting the local economy and workforce.
Short-term rentals provide an accessible investment opportunity for local Albuquerque residents, with over 2,000 hosts across the city relying on the income they generate. In contrast, building hotels requires a vast amount of funding that is typically only accessible to the wealthiest members of our society. For instance, a mid-tier 100 room hotel costs an estimated $22.5 million, with a minimum down payment of $4.5 million, making it unaffordable for the vast majority of New Mexicans. As a result, out-of-state corporations often finance these projects, taking profits out of our state. Short-term rentals serve as an investment vehicle for the 99%, ensuring that the income generated stays within our community and benefits local residents.
Limiting short-term rentals to only 1,800 units will strip future generations of New Mexicans of their opportunity to benefit from this innovative and growing sector. The “Housing Forward ABQ” plan to limit short term rentals is a restriction on commerce and interfere with property owners’ rights. It will give an unfair advantage to out-of-state owned hotels in supply and demand economics. By limiting the number of licenses available, the city is undermining a vital source of income for thousands of locals. Short-term rentals offer a valuable opportunity for the future and should be given a chance to thrive.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Simply put, Keller is using a short-term housing “crunch” to declare it a “housing crisis” in order to shove his “HOUSING FORWARD ABQ PLAN” down the throats of the city residents and property owners. Keller is using a housing crunch to declare a housing crisis to advocate major zoning changes that will increase density and destroy neighborhoods relying on neighborhoods, investors and developers to increase density by laxing zoning restriction for developers.
Keller’s “HOUSING FORWARD ABQ PLAN” empowers the Planning Department to unilaterally issue “permissive uses” for “casitas” and “two family duplex development” on existing structures. The Planning Department will be allowed to exclude the general public from the permissible use application and deny adjacent property owners the right to object and appeal casitas and duplex remodeling. It essentially will require property owners to sue adjoining property owners to enforce covenants and restrictions.
“HOUSING FORWARD ABQ” is an aggressive approach to allow the city Family and Community Services department to become alarmingly involved with acquisition of private property to promote Keller’s politcal agenda to supplement the housing market with low income housing when the city should be concentrating on providing basic essential services. The Keller Administration is emphasizing the homeless crisis as a rues to promote the “HOUSING FORWARD ABQ” when the plan has nothing to do with housing the homeless and everything to do with increasing housing density in established neighborhoods
Mayor Tim Keller’s Housing Foreward Abq Plan is a city policy abomination that favors developers and the city’s construction industry. Given the public’s reaction at all 5 of the public meetings, there exists strong public hostility and mistrust. Keller’s Housing Foreward Abq Plan is being rejected outright by city residents and the Albuquerque City Council should do the same. Keller boldly proclaims his Housing Foreward Plan is “transformational.” The only thing transformational about it is that it will destroy historic neighborhoods and the character of established neighborhoods.
KELLER CATERING TO DEVELOPERS
The IDO was enacted a mere few weeks before Tim Keller was elected Mayor the first time in 2017. When then New Mexico Auditor Tim Keller was running for Mayor he had nothing to say publicly about the IDO and gave no position on it. He did proclaim he was the most uniquely qualified to be Mayor despite lacking any experience in municipal affairs and city zoning matters. The likely reason for not taking a position on the IDO was his sure ignorance of municipal land use planning and zoning matters, something he was never exposed to in his career as a State Senator and State Auditor.
Five years later, Keller ostensibly has had some sort of epiphany and education and proclaims the IDO is outdated. It’s very difficult, if not outright laughable, to take Mayor Tim Keller serious when he proclaimed the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO), which lays out highly complicated zoning and subdivision regulations, as being outdated given that it was enacted in 2017 by the city council on an 8-1 vote.
What is really happening with Mayor Tim Keller’s “transformative changes” to the Integrated Development Ordinance and his “Housing Forward Abq” plan is that Keller is catering to the development community as he pretends to be an expert in the field of housing development and zoning matters. Keller is relying on his exaggeration of the city’s housing crisis and homeless crisis to seek further changes to the city’s zoning code to help the development community and using city funding to do it.
ANOTHER RUSH JOB TO FAVOR DEVELOPERS
Simply put, the IDO is and has always been an abomination that favors developers and the city’s construction industry. The 2017 rewrite was a rush job. It took a mere 2 years to rewrite the entire zoning code and it emerged as the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO). It was in late 2017, just a few weeks before the municipal election and the election of Mayor Tim Keller, that the City Council rushed to vote for the final adoption of the IDO comprehensive plan on an 8-1 vote.
The rush job on city zoning to favor developers is happening again. This time, Mayor Tim Keller has City Councilors Isaac Benton, a retired architect, and Republican Trudy Jones, a retired realtor to carry his water for him by sponsoring the legislation. Both have announced that they will not be seeking reelection this year and are anxious to push through the legislation before they depart on January 1, 2024.
At the Downtown area meeting, city officials essentially admitted all the public meeting and city council meetings and hearings on the amendments to the Integrated Development Ordinance will be completed in the matter of months and a final vote will be taken before the November 8 municipal election where at least 3 new city councilors will be elected.
At a bare minimum, the public should tell their City Councilors to oppose “casitas”, “two-family duplex” additions and “motel conversions” and denounce them for the zoning abominations that they are which is a threat to established neighborhoods and historical areas of the city.
CONTACT CITY COUNCIL
Voters and residents are urged to contact and voice their opinion and tell all city councilors to vote NO on the amendments.
CITY COUNCIL PHONE: (505) 768-3100
CITY COUNCIL AND SUPPORT STAFF EMAILS