City leaders propose major changes to Albuquerque’s zoning laws

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque city leaders know their latest plan to address the housing crisis is massive, but they also know they’re running out of time.

“We might as well pick our path, or our path will be picked for us because our housing shortage is so big,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said.

The mayor’s Housing Forward Initiative and city councilors are proposing six major changes to Albuquerque’s zoning laws.

The first two would allow more, limited developments in areas currently zoned for single-family homes – think of a typical neighborhood. City leaders want to open up those areas to multi-family units like duplexes, but also make it easier for homeowners to build casitas, or guest houses, if there’s room for one.

The third proposal wants to simplify plans to convert hotels into affordable housing. It would loosen restrictions that require each unit to have a stove or oven inside, and city planners said there’s a market for that.

“There is a market for these converted units for folks who really don’t want or shouldn’t have an oven, that includes our Gen X and multi-millennial friends who are increasingly not cooking at home and shopping every few days for groceries, and seniors or others suffering from mental illnesses or dementia for whom an oven is actually a safety risk,” said Mikaela Renz-Whitmore with the city’s Planning Department.

The fourth proposal would get rid of building height restrictions for multi-family developments. However, there would still be limits in protected neighborhoods, like ones near the Petroglyphs.

The final two proposals would reduce or eliminate street parking requirements for multi-family and affordable housing developments.

“We’re not trying to create solutions for everybody,” Renz-Whitmore said. “We’re trying to solve housing limits, limits in the housing available for people who need particular housing options.”

City leaders believe the new zoning changes could add several thousand rental units to the market much faster than new construction.

Some Albuquerque residents have concerns with such sweeping changes. The city’s Environmental Planning Commission listened to public comments for nearly three hours Thursday.

The proposals still have many hurdles to clear. The Environmental Planning Commission decided to delay its decision until January, and then it will go to the city council’s Land Use and Development Committee for approval, before finally going to the full council for a vote.