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The Albuquerque area needs between 13,000 and 33,000 units to address the housing supply. And private businesses, namely developers, need to work hand-in-hand with the City of Albuquerque to address that crisis.
Those were the words of Mayor Tim Keller Wednesday morning at the Economic Forum of Albuquerque as he made his pitch to business leaders and developers on his new housing initiative, Housing Forward ABQ, aimed at bringing 5,000 new units to the city by 2025 – mostly through the redevelopment of hotels, and changing zoning codes to allow for the development of casitas.
The mayor, in a speech that spanned nearly 45 minutes, also touched on crime, homelessness and the Albuquerque Rail Trail.
“We are small enough where, theoretically, you can find a nice place to live. … But the challenge is running out of houses,” Keller said. “… Because of our growth, (housing) is a crisis.”
That growth, Keller told business leaders, has come in the form of about 40 new people moving into the Albuquerque area every day. He said the city was a “net winner” coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic – with millennials now working jobs that are remote, but wanting to live in an affordable city that has the outdoor experience comparable to places like Denver.
Keller said the city's Integrated Development Ordinance, which lays out zoning and subdivision regulations, is outdated and needs reworking to allow for the expansion of housing supply in Albuquerque.
He called the redevelopment of hotels to housing units vital to increasing supply but said it is “low-hanging fruit” for the city, adding that private-public partnerships are key to the initiative going forward. Keller said the IDO has pushed developers away from addressing supply in years past.
“The City of Albuquerque is terrible about this,” Keller said. “We add $100,000 to every unit – every unit – to convert with additional building code regulations compared to other cities. That's why the private sector is not doing this already.”
Keller acknowledged on Monday that crime remains the city's biggest issue – and one of his administration's primary focuses.
He said the Albuquerque Police Department has arrested more homicide suspects than in previous years. That has been due to a variety of crime-fighting efforts, including the bolstering of the homicide unit and the implementation of technology across the city such as gun shot detectors and additional cameras.
The mayor also said recruitment of police officers hasn't been as much of an issue as retention, with many APD officers retiring at the 20-year mark. To address that, the city has offered additional incentives to officers who stay with the department an additional five years.