Opinion Columns On Keller’s ABQ Housing Forward Plan; Allowing Casitas’s And Duplex Development On 68% Of City Residential Lots Caters To Developers And Will Destroy Neighborhoods

 On Wednesday June 21 the Albuquerque City Council has schedule a final vote on O-22-54  and the casita and duplex amendments  to the city’s zoning code and laws known  as the Integrated Development Ordinance.  The council will limit public comments at the June 21 meeting to 1 minute per personThe 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. 

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. 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.

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.


The following 3 guest opinion columns were published by the Albuquerque Journal, www.PeteDinelli.com and the New Mexico Sun on June 20, June 19 and May 10 respectively:


June 20, 2023

ABQ JOURNAL HEADLINE: “ABQ Housing Forward Zone Change Will Downgrade Our City”

By Dianne Terry

Albuquerque Resident

“Regarding the mayor’s Housing Forward proposed changes to single-family zoning that would allow anyone to build duplexes and casitas, aka tiny homes, in backyards, the mayor wants to say the lack of affordable housing is the cause of homelessness. We all know there are various factors, with generational lack of education being right up there at the top of the list.

Don’t be fooled. I wish these proposals were sincerely and totally about affordable housing, but these proposed changes to R-1 zoning show that they have more to do with real estate investors and developers making money and with questionable results as to the affordability of the housing created.

According to one internet site, the cost of living in Albuquerque is 2% lower than the state average and 7% lower than the national average. Albuquerque housing is 12% cheaper than the U.S. average, while utilities are about 8% less pricey.

People moving here from out of state have no problem with affordability. What our city should be tending to are the causes of why are residents can not afford these rates. It is more than questionable that these changes to R-1 zoning will solve the education, salary and drug problems that are influencing housing problems.

This process has tried to fly under the radar to deny thousands of homeowners their input. Major zone changes are not updates. The Housing Forward proposals to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) are a change, not an update, and should not have been approved at the Environmental Planning Commission update hearing in November. Blanket approval for duplexes and casitas is not appropriate.

The city wants to cram people together to create more density to get more federal money. Is this for housing, and how are they accountable for it?

Ventana Fund was awarded $580,405 by the U.S. Treasury to fund rehabilitation and construction of small affordable rental projects throughout the state. Mom-and-pop property owners can now get loans to rehabilitate them. There are a number of new affordable apartments under construction. There are abandoned strip malls that could become apartments. There are houses up for auction that will bolster the housing supply. I question why you have to take our housing.

The current IDO has some beautiful language about recognizing our distinct communities and neighborhoods. If the city destroys existing single family housing, none of it will be desirable. Is this what we want to achieve? It is not the desired outcome for me. Change R-1 zoning under this proposal, and there is only a downgrade to our city.

I would like the city to give more attention to maintaining the neighborhoods’ character and safety. Neighborhoods and the people in them are the heart and mystique of Albuquerque, not the nationally created slogans like One Albuquerque and Housing Forward. Try harder to find an Albuquerque solution to housing. …



 JUNE 19, 2023



“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.  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:



 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

3 https://cabq.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2099303&GUID=2297F7BA-5FE4-4A8E-9845-8056F22558B3&Options=ID%7CText%7C&Search=Comprehensive+Plan (click on EC-14-219)

4 https://www.aanm.org/news/list-of-apartments-under-construction-in-albuquerque

5 https://www.cabq.gov/council/documents/vacant-abandoned-houses-task-force-final-final-report-1-17-18.pdf


MAY 10, 2023

NM Sun Headline: “Tim Keller’s Shanty Town Of Casitas, Duplexes And Homeless Encampments”

BY: Pete Dinelli

“A shanty town is loosely defined as an area of improvised buildings known as shanties or shacks of poor construction that lack adequate infrastructure including proper sanitation, safe water supply, electricity and street drainage and parking. Mayor Tim Keller wants enactment by the City Council of two major amendments to the zoning laws that will transform the city into a shanty town. The amendments will allow the construction of 750 square-foot “casitas” and “duplex” additions in the backyards of all 120,000 residential lots that have existing homes. The City Council has voted to allow 18 city-sanctioned Safe Outdoor Space tent encampments for the homeless to help with the “shanty town ambiance.”

The casita and duplex amendments are part of Keller’s Housing Forward ABQ Plan. It is a “multifaceted initiative” where 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. Keller has proclaimed the city is in a major “housing crisis” and the city immediately needs 13,000 to 28,000 more housing units.

 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. 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.

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 distressed properties to lease and convert whole blocks into rental duplexes with substandard rental casitas. This will dramatically degrade the character of neighborhoods and the city as a whole.

 To put the argument in perspective, an individual investor will be able to purchase single-family homes to rent, add a 750-square-foot two-family home addition and build a separate 750-square-foot free-standing casita. The result is a one-home rental being converted into three separate rental units. Such development will increase an area’s property values and property taxes. It will also decrease the availability of affordable homes and raise rental prices even higher. It will increase gentrification in the more historical areas of the city as generational residents will be squeezed out by the developers and increases in property taxes.

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.

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.

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. Keller is using the short-term housing “crunch” to declare a “housing crisis” to shove his Housing Forward ABQ Plan down the throats of city property owners.

 Keller is advocating zoning changes to increase density by severely relaxing zoning restrictions to favor investors and the developers that will destroy entire neighborhoods.  Tell City Council to vote NO on Keller’s plan.”

The link to the New Mexico Sun column is here:



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 any  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.

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. 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.

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




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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.