BUILDING THE FUTURE: City Puts Much-Needed Housing on Faster Permitting Track

The Chamber’s Tom Jenkins, seated far right, joined Mayor Tim Keller and others last Friday as the mayor signed legislation giving priority planning and permitting to housing projects Downtown, in MRAs, along transit corridors and in other specific areas of the city.

When all nine Albuquerque city councilors vote in favor of something, with no detractors speaking up, you know you’ve hit on something worthwhile.

And in the case of R-24-22, that something is streamlining planning and permitting over the next two years to build much-needed housing in areas hungry for investment and revitalization. Tom Jenkins, who chairs the Chamber’s Economic Development Teams, joined housing advocates, developers and members of Mayor Tim Keller’s administration last Friday as the mayor signed it into law.

The council unanimously approved the legislation April 15. It replaces the city’s standard first-come-first-served procedure by giving priority to “development projects that will result in permanent housing within Metropolitan Redevelopment Areas, urban centers, employment centers, activity centers, premium transit corridors, main street corridors, major transit corridors and multi-modal corridors.”

Chamber EVP for Policy and Programs D’Val Westphal joined Jenkins, who is also a principal and qualifying broker of Real Estate Advisors, to support the reform. The Chamber’s EDTs are sector-specific groups of Chamber investors, board members, policy experts, trade associations, and other partners who meet and mobilize when an opportunity (or threat) to an economic sector arises. Jenkins summed up the planning and permitting legislation by saying “helping streamline the process is good for the economy” and good for Albuquerqueans.

Keller explained during the bill signing at City Hall that fast-tracking site-plan approval and construction permitting for housing is an idea that’s been kicking around for about 15 years. He explained his administration dedicated resources from multiple departments to get it done, including Metropolitan Redevelopment, Economic Development, Planning, and Health, Housing and Homelessness. The mayor pointed out the “concise, powerful legislation” will address multiple needs, from providing more housing and equity in where and for whom projects are built, to reversing “blighted” areas across the city.

Sponsor Councilor Joaquín Baca – who represents District 2, which includes Downtown, Old Town, a part of the West Mesa and the entire valley east of the river – said he is “hopeful this will help jump start” solutions to the housing crisis. Council Vice President Rene Grout – who represents District 9, which includes the far Southeast Heights and Foothills – expanded the eligible areas beyond Downtown to include Metropolitan Redevelopment Areas and transit corridors and said it presents “a wonderful opportunity that touches many trades and businesses and creates jobs and housing.”

Keller explained MRAs include Downtown, Route 66 (Central Avenue), Menaul Boulevard, the University area and areas along transit corridors. (A complete list can be found here.)

Lisa Huval, who was deputy director of Housing for the city and is now with Homewise, said the project’s mixed-income communities – which will include supportive, affordable and market-rate housing – should “help people become homeowners.”

Representatives of NAIOP and the Urban Land Institute also spoke in favor of the legislation, as did a representative from Titan Development, who explained it will “help us get to the finish line faster and get projects off the ground.”

And getting more housing in the pipeline while helping revitalize parts of the city is a positive step for Albuquerque.

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