On October 18, 2022, Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference to announce his “Housing Forward ABQ Plan”. It is a “multifaceted initiative” where Keller 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 between 13,000 and 30,000 new housing use.
To add the 5,000 new housing units, 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” where the city buys existing motels or commercial office space and converts them into low-income housing. It includes allowing both “casitas” and duplex additions on existing residential properties.
City officials have 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 “duplex addition” with a kitchen and separate entrance to an existing structure on all built out lots which could double density to 240,000 housing units or triple density to 360,000 housing units.
COUNCIL DEFERS ACTION
On June 6, the Albuquerque City Council at its regularly scheduled meeting, took public comments on Mayor Keller’s Housing Forward Initiative, O-22-54. The proposed legislation is sponsored by City Councilors Isaac Benton and Trudy Jones. Both Benton and Jones as well as Democrat City Councilor Pat Davis have announced that they are not seeking re-election to the council with the municipal election scheduled for November 7 when 4 city council positions will be on the ballot. Republican City Councilor Brook Basaan is the 4th city councilor whose position will be on the ballot.
On June 6, well over 100 people signed up to testify before the city council, for and against the proposed amendments to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO). The annual update of the IDO has been pending since November of last year when Mayor Tim Keller announced that he wants “transformative changes” to the city’s zoning laws. There have been at least 3 city council committee hearings on the changes and 5 public presentations by the Keller Administration where hundreds have attended to voice opposition.
A “conditional use” requires an application process with the city Planning Department, notice to surrounding property owners and affected neighborhood associations and provides for appeal rights. A “permissive use” would give the Planning Department exclusive authority to issue permits for construction without notices and hearings and with no appeal process. Objecting property owners and neighborhood associations to the permissive casita and duplex uses would be relegated to filing lawsuits to enforce covenants and restrictions.
The zoning code amendments would make both casitas and duplex additions “permissive uses” and not “conditional uses” as they are now and have always been historically.
Should the proposed changes to the Integrated Development Ordinance pass without amendment, large swaths of the city zoned for single-family houses would be opened to casita and duplex development. Other proposed changes include eliminating building height limits for multifamily and mixed-use buildings, and reducing parking requirements for multifamily housing.
The link to the news source is here:
NOTICE OF MEETING
The City Council has schedule a final vote on O-22-54 and the casista and duplex amendments on Wednesday June 21. The council also decided to limit public comments at the June 21 meeting to 1 minute per person. The meeting will begin at 5:000 and will be held in the Vincent E. Griego Council Chambers, basement level of the City of Albuquerque Government Center, 1 Civic Plaza NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102.
PATRICIA D. WILLSON BIOGRAPHY
Patricia D. Willson has lived in New Mexico since 1969 and has been a licensed Architect in the state since 1987. As a resident of District 6 for over 50 years, she has served on her neighborhood association board, District 6 Coalition and Inter-Coalition Council (ICC). The ICC (a coalition of neighborhood association coalitions formed by the late Dr. Joe Valles in 2014) has a committee of dedicated volunteers who review the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) amendments every year.
EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this guest column written by Patricia D. Willson are those of Ms. Willson and do not necessarily reflect those of the www.petedinelli.com blog. Ms. Willson has not been paid any compensation to publish the guest column and has given her consent to publish on www.PeteDinelli.com.
PATRICIA D. WILLSON GUEST COLUMN
“KELLER’S HOUSING FORWARD ORDINANCE SETS A TERRIBLE PRECEDENT!”
The Mayor’s Housing Forward Initiative, O-22-54, is a package of six transformative zoning changes that were tag-teamed along with the 49 Citywide Amendments in the 2022 IDO Annual Update. By law, the Integrated Development Ordinance must be updated every year. This update has a specific 3-step process—a process that was side-stepped by Housing Forward.
“A comprehensive plan contains the vision, goals, and policies for growth and development, and the zoning code contains the regulations to implement that vision.” 1
“The purpose of the IDO is to: Implement the adopted Albuquerque / Bernalillo County Comprehensive Plan, as amended.”2
After the adoption of IDO, nearly every presentation by the Planning Department included an image of a table covered with stacks of plans, then the same table with only two plans on it. The out-of-state consultant that reduced this stack of sector plans to two documents—the Comprehensive Plan and the IDO—was paid at least $1.5 million.3 The revised two documents are only five years old. And yet we are now being told by Mayor Keller they are out of date and in need of transformative changes.
Since the IDO’s first annual update in 2019, residents have been asking for a better process. For three years residents have been asking for Council to:
Establish metrics to determine a status of technical or substantive for all IDO amendments.
Require all substantive IDO amendments to be addressed through the CPA Assessment process.
Analysis by the Planning Department would provide:
Impact and beneficiary statements
- Review of unintended consequences
- Examples including maps and diagrams
- Pro and Con public comments
Using the IDO Annual Update process to pass major substantive zoning changes sets a terrible precedent. Last year’s Safe Outdoor Space amendment clearly showed the unintended consequences of poorly written, ill-conceived crisis legislation. That fracas will pale in comparison to Housing Forward—once it’s passed and people see what’s in it…
The taxpayers of Albuquerque paid good money for a good Comprehensive Plan with a valuable long-range Community Planning Area assessment process. Please do not throw that out. There are options that would provide for more ADUs permissively: for example, at the first EPC hearing, I suggested an amendment to double the width of Premium Transit Corridors. What about the stalled multi-family project planned for Central and Vassar, and the 130 apartments planned for the conversion of the 10-story office tower at 300 San Mateo NE? Those two projects alone will add ≈230 units.
According to the Apartment Association of NM, there are currently 40 communities—5,328 new apartments—under construction.4 Finish those and re-vamp the 1,200-1,300 vacant, abandoned or substandard houses in Albuquerque.5 That puts us well over the Mayor’s goal of 5,000 housing units.
Everyone agrees we have a housing problem in Albuquerque. Everyone agrees we have a homeless problem. Private equity firms owning dozens of multi-family apartments cause more harm to housing availability than the lack of ADUs permissively in R-1 zoning. Many of our unhoused population need Permanent Supportive Housing, not a casita.
As I have repeated ad infinitum, I am not against casitas, duplexes, infill, gentle density, missing middle housing. Somehow this argument has morphed into ‘Opposition to O-22-54 = you hate my grandma’. There is a 50+ year history of valuable planning efforts in the city; shelved plans, disregard of ideas and loss of institutional memory is just sad…
At the June 5th Council meeting, O-22-54 was “continued” rather than “deferred.” That means on June 21st, Councilors will pick up the ordinance right where they left off; discussing eleven confusing and contradictory Floor Amendments. Unlike a deferral, a continuance does not allow additional public comment. Because the package of Citywide Amendments (O-23-77) was approved on June 5th, the IDO update requirement has been fulfilled. Council does not need to pass Housing Forward, nor should they—changes this dramatic should be the purview of the next Council that will have to deal with the ramifications of this legislation.
I urge you to call and/or write your Councilor. Go here to learn more and sign this petition asking your Councilor to Vote NO on O-22-54:
GUEST COLUMN FOOTNOTES
1 https://abq-zone.com/abc-z-frequently-asked-questions-faqs (under question ‘How does a Comprehensive Plan relate to the Zoning Code?’)
2 https://abq-zone.com/integrated-development-ordinance-ido Part 14-16-1 General Provisions, 1-3 Purpose
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is expected that at the June 21 meeting of the City Council, it will take a final vote on the casita and duplex amendment to the city’s zoning laws after taking further public comment. It’s very disappointing that the council will allow members of the public only one minute each to voice their opinions. The city council could easily convene a special meeting of the council to take further testimony from the public and to discuss the amendments. That would be too difficult and uncomfortable for them. Besides they all likely have made up their minds how they will vote and not interested in what the public has to say.
What is extremely disappointing is that outgoing City Councilors Isaac Benton, Trudy Jones and Pat Davis continue to sponsor and plan on voting on the amendments that many of their constituents so adamantly oppose. All 3 should recuse themselves from the final vote or seek to defer final votes on the amendments until after the November 7 municipal election and allow their successors to deal with the ramifications of the dramatic change in the zoning laws.
FIEBELKORN REVEALS HOW SHE WILL VOTE AND WHAT NAIOP IS UP TO
On June 7, the District 7 Coalition of Neighborhood Association held its monthly meeting. The District 7 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations is one of the largest and most active of all neighborhood association coalitions in the city. It boasts membership of at least 11 neighborhood associations. The June 7 agenda included a report from District 7 City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn.
Fiebelkorn was asked point blank how she intended to vote on allowing changes to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) that will allow for the construction of casitas and duplexes in all existing neighborhoods of the city as permissive uses giving unilateral authority to the planning department. Fiebelkorn said tersely she will vote YES for Mayor Tim Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” which includes allowing casitas and duplex development as permissive uses. She refused to consider making them conditional uses requiring adjacent property owners rights of appeal as a compromise saying such a compromise is an impediment delaying development.
A coalition board member challenged Fiebelkorn objecting to her voting to allowing casita and duplex developments in all neighborhoods to increase density. The board member argued forcefully that casitas and duplexes will destroy established neighborhoods, they will be too costly and will only benefit developers and that they will not solve the city’s affordable housing and rental shortage and only make it worse. Fiebelkorn disagreed without elaborating. She ignored the arguments made and said her mind was made up and she would vote YES despite any objections.
What was very revealing is that Fiebelkorn boasted and said the local chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Park (NAIOP) personnel would be taking a bus tour of District 7 on June 8 to look at possible “investment sites and projects.” Fiebelkorn disclosed that she would be giving NAIOP personnel the bus tour. A source has confirmed that only NAIOP membership were allowed on the tour and that the organization intends to tour all 9 city council districts.
NAIOP has without any reservations endorsed allowing casita and duplex development on all residential property in the city. NAIOP is considered the most influential business and political organizations in the city. It boasts membership of over 300 of developers, contractors and investors. It has its own Political Action Committee (PAC) for lobbying and supports candidates for office. NAIOP membership consistently bids on city construction contracts and contributes to races for city council and mayor usually Republican candidates. In 2013, NAIOP made the enactment of the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) a major priority which repealed many sector development plans enacted over 50 years that protected neighborhoods and historical areas of the city.
District 7 is the Mid-heights City Council District, it is one of the most stable districts with built out neighborhoods, apartments and retail shops with very little next to nothing in open space and lots available for development. District 7 includes Coronado Shopping Center, the Commons Uptown Shopping area and Winrock and surrounding established residential areas and parts of the near northeast heights. A 200 unit, high rise apartment complex is currently being constructed across from 2 Park Square and apartments and luxury condos are under construction at Winrock.
It does not take a mental genius to figure out what NAIOP is up to when it takes a bus tour of District 7 for “investment sites and projects.” It is looking for residential properties to target for casitas and duplex development. Only in Albuquerque would you have and extreme left wing progressive Democrat such as Tamy Fiebelkorn throw her support behind the likes of developers and investors hell bent on changing the character of entire neighborhoods for the sake of making a buck. Mayor Tim Keller calls himself a Progressive Democrat as he gives a wink and a nod to the business and development community with his “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” that overwhelming favors developers over neighborhoods.
FIEBELKORN CONTINUES TO PERPERPETIATE FALSEHOODS IN NEWSLETTER
In her most recent “D7 Councilor Connection” news letter to her City Council District 7 constituents, City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn wrote that the ABQ Housing Forward bills will be voted on by Council on June 21st. She wrote in her news letter:
“Creating more housing in Albuquerque will create higher density housing, decrease urban scrawl (NOTE misspelling of sprawl), and aid in combating climate change. Albuquerque needs more housing for all income levels and this bill, along with the rest of the Housing Forward Initiative, will help provide that. This zoning change allows the flexibility the Albuquerque needs, we are currently zoned at two-thirds single-family detached homes, this is incredibly low density and doesn’t support our current population and demand. Councilor Fiebelkorn supports this bill because it will increase housing units while reducing the environmental and climate impacts of urban sprawl.”
Fiebelkorn’s newsletter arguments are a reflection of her sure ignorance of basic economics, market forces and zoning laws. The housing shortage is related to economics, the development community’s inability to keep up with supply and demand and the public’s inability to purchase housing or qualify for housing mortgage loans. The shortage of rental properties has resulted in dramatic increases in rents.
City Councilor Fiebelkorn makes the false presumption that higher density will result in lower rents and more affordable housing being made available to the general public. Rental property owners will always charge the rent the market will bear. Sellers of homes will also do the same. Mayor Tim Keller and City Councilor Fiebelkorn are using the short-term housing “crunch” to declare a “housing crisis” to shove the Housing Forward ABQ Plan down the throats of city property owners. They are advocating zoning changes to increase density by severely relaxing zoning restrictions to favor investors and the developers that will destroy entire neighborhoods, especially historic areas of the city and lower income areas of the city.
People buy single detached homes wanting to live in low density neighborhoods not high density areas that will reduce their quality of life and the peaceful use and enjoyment of their homes and families. Allowing a casita or duplex addition, which in all likelihood will be rentals on single family properties, will seriously damage the character of a neighborhood. This will be a breach of trust between home owners and the city. People buy their most important asset, their home, with the expectation they can trust the city not to change substantially the density, quality and appearance of their neighborhood.
Fiebelkorn makes the out of left field false argument that “this bill will increase housing units while reducing the environmental and climate impacts of urban sprawl” is embarrassing. High density cities are known for extreme air pollution and suffer from air quality issues because of high rise development and density.
HOUSING FORWARD ABQ PLAN SHOULD BE VOTED DOWN
The housing shortage is related to economics, the development community’s inability to keep up with supply and demand and the public’s inability to purchase housing or qualify for housing mortgage loans. The shortage of rental properties has resulted in dramatic increases in rents. Mayor Keller and Councilor Fiebelkorn are using the short-term housing “crunch” to declare a “housing crisis” to shove the Housing Forward ABQ Plan down the throats of city property owners. The Albuquerque Forward Plan is advocating zoning changes to increase density by severely relaxing zoning restrictions to favor investors and the developers that will destroy entire neighborhoods.
The Keller Administration has never discussed the actual cost of construction of 750 square foot casitas and duplex remodeling. They simply presume property owners will be able to afford to do it themselves which is not likely given the high cost of construction and materials. Home builders serving the Albuquerque area estimate the cost to build residents in Albuquerque is between $175 to $275 per square foot. It’s a cost that equally applies to casitas and duplex development. To build and construct a 750 foot casita or duplex at the $175 foot construction cost would be $131,425 (750 sq ft X 175 = $131,421) and to build both $262,848. These are just actual construction costs. The addition of plumbing, sewer, electrical and gas hook ups and permits will likely add an additional $30,000 to $50,000 to the final construction costs.
Not once has the Keller Administration ever discussed the actual cost of construction of 750 square foot casitas and duplex remodeling nor who will be able to afford such remodeling and construction. They simply presume property owners will be able to afford to do it themselves which is not at all likely given the high cost of construction and materials. The truth is very few people have the financial ability to invest another $130,000 to $250,000 in homes they already own. The casitas and duplexes will be used predominantly by developers and investors as rental units, either for housing or business use and do not expect that rents will come down nor that there will be more low-income housing.
Very few people have the financial ability to invest another $130,000 to $250,000 in homes they already own. The casitas and duplexes will be used predominantly by outside investors and developers as rental units. More outside investors are buying multifamily properties around the city. According to New Mexico Apartment Advisors CEO Todd Clarke, there are currently 1,999 investors looking in the Albuquerque multifamily market, a number that has increased sixfold since before the pandemic.
Supporters of casita and duplex development argue it is needed to increase density, create affordable housing and to get away from “urban sprawl”. They repeatedly make the misleading representation that many within the community want additional housing for extended families making reference to “mother-in-law quarters”. Calling casitas “mother-in-law quarters” is nothing more than a ploy to make the proposal palatable to the general public.
The city council should defer action on the amendments until after the November municipal election and let the new council decide. If not, the council should vote NO on Mayor Keller’s casita and duplex amendments to the Integrated Development Ordinance.
The email addresses and phone numbers to contact each City Councilor and the Director of Counsel services to voice your opinion are as follows:
CITY COUNCIL PHONE: (505) 768-3100