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Saying Albuquerque is currently in a “housing crisis,” Mayor Tim Keller on Monday announced a new multifaceted initiative he hopes will add 5,000 new housing units across the city by 2025 beyond what private industry would normally create.
He deemed it an “extremely ambitious” goal; for context, the city said it currently issues construction permits for only about 1,200 to 1,500 new units each year.
But Keller said the situation demands a sweeping plan, noting that studies have estimated the city needs as many as 13,000 to 30,000 new housing units.
“We’re like in a rowboat against the tidal wave, and we’ve got to deal with the tidal wave,” the mayor said in a news conference next to an under-construction apartment complex in Southeast Albuquerque.
He said the so-called “Housing Forward ABQ” plan will involve a range of strategies.
That includes what he referred to as a zoning code “rebalance” to enhance density. That could mean changes like allowing casitas – formally known as accessory dwelling units – on residential properties and enabling what Keller called “different forms of multi-unit housing types” in a city where 63% of the housing stock is single-family detached homes.
His administration may also seek a reduction in the number of parking spaces required for housing developments.
But officials released no detailed zoning proposals Monday.
He said the city will also push to convert commercial space, like office buildings, to residential use. Keller said his administration is proposing $5 million to offset some developer costs with the aim of transitioning 10 properties and creating 1,000 new housing units.
The new plan also includes the city’s previously stated goal of turning hotels into housing.
The city has confirmed to the Journal one of the locations it is pursuing – 10330 Hotel Circle NE – but a spokeswoman said the city has not yet bought it and there is no turnaround time frame. She said there are no other specific sites to announce yet.
Other elements of the new initiative include a potential cap on short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs, though the mayor provided no specific limit Monday. His office estimates there are about 1,000 such rentals citywide today, though only about 400 have the required city license.
Keller said the new initiative aims to bolster the construction workforce and also to address current renter concerns. According to a city news release, forthcoming proposals will seek to change the law 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.”
While the proposal has several tentacles, Keller emphasized the importance of amending the city’s zoning code.
“Right now our zoning code will never allow us to meet the housing demand in the city,” Keller said of the Integrated Development Ordinance, or IDO. “… 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.”
City Council President Isaac Benton has long advocated for ways to increase the housing stock, previously pushing to legalize casitas. However, the council rejected that bill in 2016 amid some neighborhood association opposition.
“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,” Benton said. “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.”