On October 18, 2022, Mayor Tim Keller announced 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 the private sector normally creates each year. According to Keller, the city is in a major “housing crisis” and the city needs between 13,000 and 28,000 new housing units.
During his October 18 news conference announcing his “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” Keller himself used a 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.”
A link to a blog article entitled “An In-Depth Analysis of Mayor Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ Plan”; Plan Met With Hostility And Mistrust by Public; Viewed As Destroying Neighborhoods To Benefit Developers” can be found below.
Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” included proposed enactment of 2 new city ordinances that would directly impact the city’s rental industry and major amendments to the city’s land use laws known as the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) that negatively impacted private property rights.
Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” attempts to address the shortage of affordable housing with a number of very aggressive initiatives. Those initiatives involved aggressive regulation of the housing rental industry. Included in Keller’s original “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” were the following:
- Enact a“Residential Tenant Protection Ordinance” to target what was declared “deceptive” practices and “unreasonable” fees charged by residential rental proper owners and landlords.
- Amending City Zoning laws to allow Casita and Duplex Development on 68% of existing city residential development .
- Enact a “Residential Rental Permit Ordinance” limiting and placing caps on short term rentals.
This blog article is a review and analysis of the ordinances that were rejected by the city council and amendments to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) which the City Council approved to allow casitas but where the council rejected to allow duplex development. The article also includes Keller’s “Safe Outdoor Spaces” amendment to the IDO that he advocated for in 2022. Taken together, they reflect a pattern of interference with real property rights.
- “RESIDENTIAL TENANT PROTECTION ORDINANCE”
It was Progressive Democrat Albuquerque City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn who sponsored the Residential Tenant Protection Ordinance. At the time of introduction, Fiebelkorn said tenants complained that they were paying a lot more for the apartments they rented than they expected because of “hidden fees”. The bill would have required landlords to post a list of application fees, minimum income and credit score requirements, plus background check results that could disqualify applicants.
The bill would have required the following:
Rental property owners and landlords would be required to make upfront disclosures to potential applicants.
Rental property owners and landlords would have to list any parking, amenity, pet or other fees, as well as any financial penalties tenants might face for late payments or other lease violations.
Rental property owners and landlords would also have to outline certain terms of their tenant-screening process so that would-be applicants knew ahead of time if they must have a specific credit score or income to qualify.
All application fees would be limited to $150 and require landlords refund it in cases where they rented the unit to someone else before processing others’ applications or when they denied an applicant without providing a reason.
Rental property owners and landlords would have been prohibited from mandating that tenants have insurance for their personal property, though they could have still required that renters have insurance to cover damage to the rental unit.
Supporters described the bill as “common sense” protections for tenants. They argued the regulations would ease the burden on lower-income renters who currently struggle to pay multiple application fees and who need to know and plan for about all the fees they will have to pay while in a rental agreement.
Opponents of the bill, including the rental industry representatives, said it was “meddlesome”, “cumbersome”, “unnecessary” and interfered with property rights and contract rights . It was argued passage would likely result in the raising of rents to account for the new regulations.
On March 6, 2023 the Albuquerque City Council voted 4 YES and 5 NO to kill Fiebelkorn’s “Residential Protection Ordinance” as it had been amended since introduction in November of 2022. Voting YES with Fiebelkorn in favor of the bill were progressive Democrats City Councilor Pat Davis, Isaac Benton and moderate Democrat Klarissa Peña. The 5 who voted NO to kill the bill were conservative Republicans Dan Lewis, Trudy Jones, Renee Grout and Brook Bassan joined by conservative Democrat Louis Sanchez.
COMMNENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The “Residential Tenant Protection Ordinance” was introduced in Novmeber 2022 after rent control was overwhelmingly reject by the New Mexico Legislature in 2022. The ordinance was sponsored by Progressive Democrat City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn and was supported 100% by Mayor Tim Keller who made it part of his “Housing Forward ABQ Plan”.
Fiebelkorn at the time of introduction proclaimed the new ordinance was a “logical progression” of the discussion on rent control. It never was. What it was is a reflection of Fiebelkorn’s resentment or downright hostility towards property owners and the apartment industry that resisted rent control. What it was is a reflection of Mayor Keller’s support of rent control as a means of dealing with the city’s shortage of affordable housing.
Fiebelkorn herself said this:
“Most of the landlords in our city are fair, transparent, very clear with what folks are going to get. It’s the few that are making it really hard.”
What Fiebelkorn was essentially saying with her sponsorship is she wanted to make the entire apartment rental industry miserable with city fees and bureaucratic mandates because “It’s the few that are making it really hard.”
She proclaimed her Residential Tenant Protection Ordinance was a relatively painless way to help Albuquerque residents living on the margins to deal with soaring rental housing costs. The truth is, there was absolutely nothing “painless” about the ordinance when it comes to real property owners and how it interfered with their real property rights and their right to contract.
The only logical progression is the fact that Fiebelkorn is a self-proclaimed activist and who is considered the extremist on the city council who became upset with the City Council rejecting her politcal agenda to ask the New Mexico Legislature to repeal the state law that prevents cities throughout the state from implementing rent control.
The way the ordinance was written by Fiebelkorn is that it was a blatant attempt to usurp and contravene provisions of the New Mexico legislative enacted state Owner – Resident Relations Act. The Act mandates written ‘‘rental agreements’’ or leases and provides that all agreements between an owner and resident and all rules and regulations required under the act must be embodied in the terms and conditions of the written agreement concerning the use and occupancy of a dwelling unit or premises. (47-8-3, P, Definitions.) The Act has court enforcement provisions which has resulted in the Bernalillo County Metro Court having an entire division dealing with landlord-tenant disputes.
- AMENDING CITY ZONING LAWS TO ALLOW CASITA AND DUPLEX DEVELOPMENT
The most controversial provision of Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ” plan was the introduction to the City Council of City Council Ordinance 0-22-54. The “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” was embodied in amendments to the Integrated Development (IDO) which is the city’s zoning laws. The IDO was enacted in 2017 and can be amended and updated once a year. Thus far, it has been amended by the City Council well over 250 times.
The proposed legislation known as O-22-54 was sponsored by Progressive City Councilor Isaac Benton, a retired architect and avowed “urbanist”, and Conservative Republican Trudy Jones, a retired realtor. Mayor Keller called the legislation “transformative” updates to Albuquerque’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) to carry out his “Housing Forward ABQ”.
The amendments contained in 0-22-54 was to allow the construction of 750 square foot casitas and 750 square foot duplex additions on every single existing R-1 residential lot that already has single family house built on it in order to increase density. The amendments as originally proposed would allow one “casita” and one “duplex addition” with a kitchen and separate entrance to an existing structure on all built out lots. 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 zoning code amendments would have made both casitas and duplex additions “permissive uses”. Historically, they have always been “conditional uses”. 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 to surrounding property owners. Objecting property owners and neighborhood associations to the permissive casita and duplex uses would be relegated to filing lawsuits to enforce covenants and restrictions.
On June 21 the Albuquerque City Council voted 5-4 to approve the zoning code changes with amendments made to O-22-54. The version of the bill that ultimately passed on a 5-4 vote was amended extensively. The city council voted to allow casita construction a “permissive use” in all single-family R–1 zone and reduce parking requirements for some multifamily properties and changing building height limitations.
The city council voted to strike the amendment and to not allow duplexes to be permissively zoned in R–1 zone areas, which make up about two-thirds of the city.
The 5 City Councilors who voted in favor of the amendments were the bill sponsors Progressive Democrat Isaac Benton and Conservative Republican Trudy Jones and Progressive Democrats Pat Davis and Tammy Fiebelkorn and Moderate Democrat Klarissa Pena. Voting NO were Conservative Democrat Louis Sanchez, and conservative Republicans Dan Lewis, Renee Grout and Brook Bassan.
On July 6, Mayor Tim Keller signed into law the zoning amendments that embody his “Housing Forward ABQ Plan”. It will allow casita construction on 68% of all built out residential lots in the city. Casita construction is now a “permissive use” on all single-family R–1 zones giving the Planning Department exclusive authority to approve casitas over objections of adjoining property owners.
Mayor Keller announced his administration’s goal is to review and approve 1,000 new casitas all over the city by 2025. Keller announced the Planning Department will also “lower the bar” for property owners to build casitas and provide pre-approved casita designs. The city also wants to provide loans for building costs to homeowners that agree to rent their casita to those who use Section 8 housing vouchers.
COMMNENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It came as no surprise to anyone, especially established neighborhood associations for historic areas of the city like Barelas and the South Broadway and Martineztown area, that so called Progressive Democrat Isaac Benton and Conservative Republican Trudy Jones carried the water for Mayor Tim Keller and were the sponsors of Keller’s Housing Forward ABQ plan legislation amending the IDO. Both city councilors have a distain for the previous comprehensive zoning code that was replaced by the IDO. Both voted for the enactment of the IDO in 2017.
Benton for years advocated for major changes to ease up on restrictions on secondary dwelling units, casitas, in backyards over the objections of his own progressive constituents and the historical areas of the city he represents. Benton admitted it when he said this:
“We’ve had these arguments over the years with some of my most progressive neighborhoods that don’t even want to have a secondary dwelling unit be allowed in their backyard or back on the alley. … You know, we’ve got to change that discussion. We have to open up for our neighbors, of all walks of life, to be able to live and work here.”
Republican Jones throughout her 16 years on the city council has always been considered in the pockets of the real estate and the development communities over the interests of property owners and neighborhoods. Over the years, she has received literally thousands of dollars in contributions from both the real estate industry and the development industry each time she has run for city council. She has never gone the “public finance” route and has always privately financed her city council campaigns. She was also the sponsor of the amendment to the IDO that removed the mandatory requirement for public input for special uses giving more authority to the planning department.
Reclassification zoning of all R-1 single-family lots to allow for both casita and duplex development would have encouraged 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 casita and duplex rental areas. This has already happened in the South area of the University of New Mexico dramatically degrading the character of neighborhoods and the city as a whole. It will now happen, or is already happening, in the South East Heights International District and historic areas of downtown.
To put the argument in perspective, an individual investor would have been be able to purchase single-family homes to rent and then build separate 750-square-foot free-standing casitas and duplexes. The result is a one-home rental being converted into 3 separate rental units, tripling investment and income. Such development would have increased an area’s property values and property taxes. It would have decreased 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 with increases in property taxes.
The Keller Administration has never discussed the actual cost of construction of 750 square foot casitas or even duplex remodeling. 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. 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. To build and construct a 750 foot casita at the $175 foot construction cost would be $131,425 (750 sq ft X 175 = $131,421). 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 of a casita.
Very few people have the financial ability to invest another $130,000 to $150,000 in homes they already own. The casitas 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 casitas argued throughout the process they are needed to increase density, create affordable housing and to get away from “urban sprawl”. They repeatedly made 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” was nothing more than a ploy to make the proposal palatable to the general public.
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 for that matter any duplex development, which in all likelihood will be rentals on single family properties, will seriously damage the character of any neighborhood.
- RESIDENTIAL RENTAL PERMIT ORDINANCE
It was Progressive Democrat Albuquerque City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn who sponsored the Residential Rental Permit Ordinance. On Monday August 21, 2023 the Albuquerque City Council voted 3 YES and 6 NO to place a cap on the number of short-term rentals in the city in addition to the requirements of the 2020 short-term rental ordinance which requires short-term rental owners to obtain a permit and set certain occupancy limits. Councilors Pat Davis, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Isaac Benton voted in favor. Councilors Dan Lewis, Louie Sanchez, Brook Bassan, Renée Grout, Klarissa Peña and Trudy Jones voted against.
The Keller Administration argued 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. The goal of the ordinance was to cap the number of short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO in an attempt to stop housing units from being removed from the overall housing market reducing the availability of homes for sale. The initiative was intended to boost housing stock in Albuquerque.
Under the original legislation, the permit cap would have been set at 1,800. The cap was raised from 1,200 in the original legislation to accommodate all current rentals in the city. In addition to the cap, the ordinance would have done the following:
- Limit the number of permits per owner to 3.
- People who currently own more than three rental properties would be able to keep all of their properties, and renew those permits in perpetuity but they would be prohibited from adding properties.
- All existing rental properties would be grandfathered into the 1,800 cap.
- Require a manager, either the owner or another party, to live or be based within 20 miles of the city limits, and be available 24/7 to respond to maintenance issues, security concerns, and complaints
- Require the manager’s contact information be included on the permit application
- Limit permits to natural persons, as opposed to corporations or other business entities
- Limit the number of rentals to 3 per individual operator. People who already own more than 3 rentals would be grandfathered in and be able to renew permits for all their properties.
- Properties available for mid-length stays for traveling nurses or other transient workers would not be included. Only properties offering stays of 30 days or less will be included
- Corporations would still be able to own short-term rentals, but they would need to find a local manager to list their contact information and be available to guests.
- Increase the civil penalties for non-compliance with the ordinance.
During the August 21, 2023 city council meeting a floor substitute for the ordinance was introduced which revised and removed much of the original legislation. The cap, local manager, and individual limits were slashed. In their place was a minimum distance of 330 feet between short-term rental units. It also would have removed the criminal penalties for violations of existing short-term rental regulations.
Homeowners and housing advocates came out in favor of the original regulations, with a few public commenters describing the disruptions caused by vacation rentals in their neighborhoods. Several short-term rental operators spoke out against both versions of the bill.
The original ordinance sponsor Progressive Democrat City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn said she preferred the original legislation and she said the floor substitute was a “compromise” between neighborhood and industry interests, and made an effort toward preserving housing stock.
The floor substitute failed and councilors voted 6-3 against adopting the replacement. Subsequently, the original legislation also failed 6-3. Progressive City Councilors Pat Davis, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Isaac Benton voted in favor. Conservative Republican City Councilors Dan Lewis, Brook Bassan, Renée Grout, Trudy Jones, Conservative Democrat Louis Sanches and Moderate Democrat Klarissa Peña voted against.
COMMNENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It came as absolutely no surprise that it was Progressive Democrat Albuquerque City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn who sponsored the Residential Rental Permit Ordinance (0-23-69). It too was introduced by Fiebelkorn after rent control was overwhelmingly reject by the New Mexico Legislature in 2022.
Fiebelkorn at the time of introduction proclaimed her new ordinances were a “logical progression” of the discussion on rent control. They never were. What both the “Residential Rental Permit Ordinance” and the “Residential Tenant Protection Ordinance” were was a reflection of Fiebelkorn’s resentment or downright hostility towards property owners and the apartment industry that resisted rent control.
The Residential Rental Permit Ordinance was part of Mayor Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ” plan. It is a reflection of Mayor Keller’s support of rent control as a means of dealing with the city’s shortage of affordable housing as it sought to regulate and cap short term rentals, also known as “Bed and Breakfast” rental units. The Keller Administration argued 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.
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.”
4. “SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES”
It was April 1, 2022, in his proposed 2022-2023 budget, that Mayor Tim Keller, advocated and supported an amendment to the Integrated Development Ordinance that allows for the land use known as “Safe Outdoor Spaces” to deal with the homeless crisis. “Safe outdoor spaces” will permit 2 homeless encampments in all 9 city council districts with 40 designated spaces for tents, they will allow upwards of 50 people, require hand washing stations, toilets and showers, require a management plan, 6 foot fencing and social services offered. Although the Integrated Development Ordinance amendment sets a limit of two in each of the city’s 9 council districts, the cap would not apply to those hosted by religious institutions.
On June 6, 2022 despite significant public outcry against Safe Outdoor Spaces the Albuquerque City Council enacted the legislation and passed it on a 5 to 4. On December 5, 2022 the City Council voted on a 5 to 4 vote to remove all references to Safe Outdoor Spaces within Albuquerque’s zoning code thereby outlawing the land use. Mayor Tim Keller vetoed the legislation. It was the councils third attempt to reverse its own decision in June to allow Safe Outdoor Spaces with one vote defunding them.
On January 4, 2023 the city council attempted to “override” Keller’s veto, but failed to secure the necessary 6 votes.
COMMNENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Safe Outdoor Spaces become one of the most divisive issues dealt with by the City Council in some time. It not only divided the city council but also resulted in major opposition by neighborhood associations and homeowners who became very angry. Opposition to Safe Outdoor Spaces was shamelessly dismissed as “not in my backyard.”
Safe Outdoor Space city sanctioned homeless encampments are not just an issue of “not in my back yard,” but one of legitimate anger and mistrust by the public against city elected officials and department employees who have mishandled the city’s homeless crisis and who are determined to allow them despite strong public opposition.
Safe Outdoor Space tent encampments will destroy neighborhoods and make the city a magnet for the homeless. The general public has legitimate concerns that Safe Outdoor Space homeless tent encampments will become crime-infested nuisances, such was the case with Coronado Park.
The homeless crisis will not be solved by the city but must be managed with permanent housing assistance and service programs, not nuisance tent encampments.
The new city ordinances and changes to the Integrated Development Ordinance and embodied in Mayor Tim Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” taken together reflect an unmistakable pattern of interference by Mayor Tim Keller with private real property rights under the guise of addressing a housing shortage and dealing with the homeless crisis.
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.
Many of the 250 plus zoning changes to the Integrated Development Ordinance made by the City Council and many embodied in Keller’s “Housing Forward Abq Plan” were in fact the easing up of zoning restrictions, such as easing up on height and distance requirements for new construction and minimum parking requirements, that were viewed as an impediment to the development and construction industry.
Mayor Tim Keller calls himself a Progressive Democrat as he gave a wink and a nod to the business and development community with his “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” that overwhelming favors developers over neighborhoods. What Mayor Tim Keller was really doing with his “Housing Forward Abq Plan” was catering to the development and construction industry to the determent of neighborhoods.
What Mayor Tim Keller’s “transformative changes” to the Integrated Development Ordinance and his “Housing Forward Abq Plan” was is Mayor Tim Keller using the short-term housing “crunch” to declare it a “housing crisis” to allow the city council to shove his Housing Forward ABQ Plan down the throats of city property owners to the benefit of investors and developers.