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Albuquerque Charts Course to Confront Housing Crisis

'Housing Forward ABQ’ creates path to 5,000 new units by 2025

Today, The City of Albuquerque announced Housing Forward ABQ, a package of bold strategies to address Albuquerque’s housing crisis. Today, nearly half of Albuquerque renters are ‘housing cost-burdened,’ meaning they spend over 30% of their income on housing, placing significant stress on middle-income households and creating real risk for lower-income households. Addressing access to housing for all is key to the safety and prosperity of Albuquerque families; the City’s equity, public safety, workforce, and economic development strategies; and is critical to addressing homelessness. This includes making it easier for families to stay together on the same property. Secondary dwellings, like casitas, in-law quarters, homes for adult children with special needs, and other traditional variations that are part of our New Mexican family culture; need to be reflected our housing laws.

Housing Forward ABQ aims to create 5,000 new units of housing above and beyond what the private housing market will provide for the entire range of consumers by 2025, a major step forward to addressing the immediate needs of the city. The initiative takes a multi-pronged approach to break down barriers to access in housing, protect renters from discrimination and predatory practices, and increase urgently-needed housing stock through conversions and new construction for residents of all income levels. While 5,000 new units would represent substantial progress, on its own it still would not meet the current need. The Housing Forward ABQ proposals will catalyze the creation of the diverse housing options needed to keep up with long-term demand and address affordability.

The strategies outlined in the initiative are a result of months of consultation with community members, housing industry leaders, and housing providers; research on national best practice to address access and affordability; and findings from the Office of Equity and Inclusion’s Housing Equity Needs Assessment report on Albuquerque’s deep housing gap as a factor in racial wealth inequality. Over the past four years, the City has made historic investments in housing and pathways out of homelessness. Housing Forward ABQ represents a plan to significantly amplify that work and make the city more responsive to real-time housing needs.

“Albuquerque families feel and see the housing crisis every day. Today, we are laying out a bold course of action to lower prices, break down barriers to access, and create urgently-needed housing for our city,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Our families deserve options to live together, from casitas for grandparents to guesthouses for adult children with special needs. For lower income families, housing is vital for their security and prosperity. This is about ensuring everyone has a place in the city we call home.”

“We have to deliver for our neighbors from all walks of life so they can live and work in this city. The need for affordable housing has been evident for a long time now, and I’m glad it’s at the forefront so that we can work collectively to change the direction,” said Council President Isaac Benton.

The housing initiatives announced today are part of the solutions to expand housing for our community and increase access for all. We need proactive and thoughtful strategies to address the housing crisis in Albuquerque. Together, we can make a significant impact,” said Dr. Ann Lyn Hall, CEO of Prosperity Works

Read the Housing Forward ABQ’s proposals to increase access and supply and strengthen the construction workforce in the attached document and at cabq.gov/housingforward. In the coming weeks, the Administration and City Councilors will work to introduce the initiative’s legislative measures.

Increasing the Supply of Housing for All Residents

There is a critical need for more housing units to accommodate the existing and future demand for housing at all income levels.  To try to address part of the proposed housing shortfall, we are setting a goal of adding at least 5,000 additional housing units above and beyond what the private housing market will provide to the current supply in Albuquerque for the entire range of users by 2025.  While this will not meet the entire demand for housing over the next several years, it will begin to catalyze the development of various housing types to meet the demands from all segments of the Albuquerque community.[1]

The City Council recently appropriated $20 million as part of a Gross Receipts Tax Bond to provide more affordable housing.  In addition, several federal and state funding sources will help fund more housing for all city residents.  To increase supply, the city will need to repurpose existing properties into more housing as well as support new housing development.  A number of new initiatives will help with this rehab and conversion.

  • Converting Hotel/Motel Properties to Supportive/Affordable Housing: recent updates to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) supported by the Administration and Council allow conversion of existing hotel/motel properties into permanent housing units without requiring full kitchen facilities.  Currently, this reduced kitchen requirement exception is limited to projects that are funded through Department of Family & Community Services (DFCS). The Administration will propose amending the IDO to open this exception up to all housing developers, regardless of whether project is funded through DFCS.  These conversions will help increase the supply of affordable housing units for lower-income residents.  The City is currently working on one such conversion, and plans to support additional projects working with private non-profit housing developers.  The target occupancy for these motel/hotel conversions is at least 1,000 unhoused and lower-income individuals by 2025.
  • Converting Commercial/Office Buildings to Housing: the short supply of housing in Albuquerque is in stark contrast to the large supply of vacant or underutilized commercial and office properties.  Cities and states are finding ways to support redevelopment of commercial properties into affordable and mixed income housing projects.  Mitigating some of the infrastructure costs for these projects will be crucial to making them viable for housing developers.  We are proposing a $5 million housing conversion fund using city, state and federal funding to facilitate the conversion of at least 10 commercial/office buildings into housing, creating at least 1,000 new residential units by 2025. 
  • Expanding Nuisance Abatement Laws: properties that are magnets for crime including drug trafficking, human trafficking and gun violence will be the focus of stronger enforcement of nuisance abatement laws.   Where possible and appropriate, these properties will be converted to housing units. 
  • Expanding Housing Workforce: In discussions with industry representatives, one of the biggest challenges to bringing more new or repurposed housing on line is the limited availability of construction crews to complete projects.  To expand capacity to carry out needed housing initiatives, Albuquerque will need to attract, train and incentivize more construction crews to carry out small, medium and large projects.  Using the Job Training Albuquerque program as a model, as well as other state workforce development programs, the City will work with industry and building trades leaders to ramp up workforce capacity for building additional housing.  Our goal is to help train at least 250 new housing and construction workers by 2025.
  • Allowing More Options in Housing Type in City Zoning Code: As Table 1 also details, 63% of all housing in Albuquerque is single family detached.  Removing barriers to the construction and renovation of more diverse housing types is critical to accommodating the needs of the various populations in our city: from seniors to families and students.   Adjusting the IDO to provide more options and flexibility for housing developers is desperately needed if we want to address our housing demand.  Some proposed changes include:
    • Increasing Availability of Casitas (Accessory Dwelling Units ADUs): the city will propose modifications to the IDO to allow more construction and conversion projects in appropriately zoned areas for smaller living areas conversions or “casitas.”  Allowing more construction of these units will increase the supply of affordable housing while providing additional income for current property owners.  With this change we hope the number of ADUs will increase by at least 1,000 units by 2025.
    • Increasing Availability of Diverse Housing Options: As Table 1 details, the number of multi-unit housing options is far below needed levels to provide residents with the needed range of options in housing type, regardless of whether they are renters or home owners.  By modifying the IDO to allow for more options of housing conversion and construction, residents will be able to find housing that meets their financial and family needs.  With this change we hope the number of multi-unit housing options will increase by at least 1,000 units by 2025.
    • Adjusting Parking Requirements: another modification to the IDO supported by the Administration will allow housing developers to adjust parking requirements in appropriately zoned areas to promote higher density and more infill housing.  With this change we hope the number of diverse new housing options increase by at least 1,000 units by 2025. 

Housing Access for All

The City Council appropriated approximately $15 million in the last budget cycle for vouchers for residents needing housing assistance.   However, finding rental properties that take vouchers is often difficult for voucher recipients.  An estimated 22,000 currently unhoused households need permanent supportive housing.  The City’s is working to create more new Permanent Supportive Housing vouchers and Rapid ReHousing vouchers by 2025.  For more information on the City’s affordable and supportive housing strategy, go to https://www.cabq.gov/family/documents/cabq-housing-strategies-2022-2025.pdf.

To help make these housing vouchers usable we are undertaking the following initiatives to increase access to existing properties:

  • Source of Income Requirements: City Council recently passed an ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on source of income, including use of vouchers.  Enforcement of the new ordinance will be an important part of making housing vouchers as effective as possible in housing residents.
  • Housing Stability Fund: we are working with community partners to launch a $750,000 landlord mitigation fund to help Albuquerque landlords rent to prospective tenants who might be considered higher risk based on credit history, income or other background concerns.  The fund will provide some support for landlords and tenants in the case of losses due to damage or lease payments, but will also help renters cover security deposits, application fees and other reasonable costs associated with renting.
  • Limiting Short Term Rentals: to increase the number of existing rentals available to local residents, several cities have instituted limits on the number of short-term rentals an individual or business could hold.  We are working with property owners and community members to determine the most equitable and effective way to limit short term rentals.
  • Tenant Protections:  to address the use of excessive and predatory practices as part of the application process, the City’s Consumer Protection Office will propose changes to existing laws to protect tenants from these predatory practices such as excessive application fees, clarifying that deposits must be refundable and capping other fees, especially in complexes that accept vouchers.

Advocating and Partnering with State Government

To supplement and support access and supply of housing of all types in Albuquerque, the City will actively work on legislative initiatives in the upcoming 60-day legislative session to increase funding and local legislative authority to increase equity, access and availability of housing.  These initiatives will include:

  • Seeking a bold and transformative state investment for housing and redevelopment initiatives from the state legislature. Despite major investments from the City, the amount of funding to address the housing gap is significantly short of what is needed.
  • Supporting more protections for tenants against arbitrary fees, deposits, notice and eviction requirements
  • Supporting increased funding for workforce development in the construction and building trades to create the workforce necessary to build needed housing units.

The city will also seek new federal funding support to supplement existing revenue sources being used for affordable housing projects.  

[1] These target goals are rough estimates of what the City’s policy and funding interventions could yield.  The ultimate mix of strategies and total number of new housing units will likely vary depending on multiple factors including the economy, available funding, and the available housing workforce.