The current construction approval process in place at the city is frustrating and inefficient and causes unnecessary delays and costs for owner and investors who wish to improve properties. Getting plans approved for construction requires the applicant to roam from department to department (e.g., zoning, construction, hydrology, fire, etc.), and this process relies on the knowledge of the city clerk who happens to be on duty at the time. Often applicants receive conflicting information from the same department depending on which employee is at the desk. We request that the new mayor work with administrators and improve this process in order to increase real estate investment in our city.
The chronic understaffing of APD contributes to unreasonable delays in police response times. Due to increasing crime many property owners invested in security cameras and other deterrent to crime. Our members report that when there is a car break in, vandalism, or theft they are often able to capture the perpetrators on video. However, the current policy of APD requires the victim and the property owner to be present when police are there. Police often respond many hours after the event. It is unreasonable to expect people with jobs to miss work and wait for a police response that could come at any time. Also, when owners have video they must be present to show the officer. It is possible to email video to police, but under current policy that is not permissible. We request that the new mayor work to fully staff our police department in order to reduce response times. We also request that policies be adjusted to allow electronic submission of evidence to police.
Many of the Albuquerque members of the Apartment Association of New Mexico provide housing to the elderly. However, we recognize the need for both affordable housing and services for this growing population. To that point, we want to work with the city on how this can be better accomplished through planning, development, funding, etc.
AANM recognizes the need to provide housing for those experiencing mental illness and or behavioral health issues. Reliance on providers that serve this population is key to both their well-being and staying housed. A significant number of AANM members currently work with several of these service providers that engage with their tenants. We believe the city plays a role in supporting these service providers and are happy to participate in how that can best be accomplished.
The City of Albuquerque has a short supply of affordable housing stock, while property in areas such as the International Zone is old and decaying. Those communities need stabilization through multiple avenues, and a primary component will be providing quality yet affordable housing in sufficient supply. In order to accomplish this, the City needs to establish a revolving fund from which developers can borrow funds to acquire and/or rehabilitate properties in depressed communities.
In addition to rehabilitation of existing properties, community policing / patrols with the goal of restricting criminal and drug activity will be essential to producing wholesome living conditions. Another important opportunity for public/private partnership will be addressing the mental health issues which are so prevalent in blighted areas, where partnerships with nonprofits and routine assistance will go far to stabilize the neighborhoods. With these three components, Albuquerque can make great strides to increase the value and livability of our difficult neighborhoods.
There is greater demand for economical housing than there are funds to build it new. Currently, the city subsidizes housing combining funds from NMFA, Grants, and Loans to cover costs in the construction of green buildings that are is the area of $250.00 per square foot. These subsidies limit the development of affordable housing, as $250/sf is about 2.5 times what market average properties cost to build. The renovation and refitting of older properties to accommodate affordable housing is about $20,000 per unit, or on a typical four unit building of 3,000 square feet, about $27.00 per square foot. This cost performance difference would allow the rejuvenation of large sections of communities.
An example of the value of property rehabilitation is happening right now. The Casa Feliz project on Espanola is an 80 unit project that is certainly beautiful, but costing $17 million to build brand new. Yet, through the Neighborhood Stabilization Project, we were able to renovate 93 units across 14 different properties for just $8.9 million - a cost difference of more than two to one.
New developments are great, but Albuquerque needs more housing than we have funds to build new. Rehabilitation is our next best option.
Crime Free Housing is a program supported by the Albuquerque Police Department, where the crime prevention specialist supports the efforts of property managers to reduce crime on their properties. The intent of the program is a good one: preventing or minimizing crime at the property level makes good sense. Its current effectiveness is waning, however. For these programs to effectively deter crime, both the wider community of Albuquerque property owners and APD need to work together to reduce property crime. But due to the overwhelming work load, the current specialist is unable to add new properties to the program or renew all of those already in it. Meanwhile those who do not get renewed are unable to rejoin.
A program of this kind depends on full community support and good communication. Even if they are not certified in the program, most property owners and managers firmly subscribe to the crime free housing concept. But agreeing with the concept is not enough: they must be able to access the support of the APD, the crime prevention specialist, and a network of other owners. Yet, with the current workload making it impossible for all renewals to be processed, if someone falls out of favor with the coordinator, they are moved to the bottom of the priority list and the owner is simply no longer part of the family.
Additional support is required as are different processes so groups of owners can be entered into the program, and so that the community is participating as a whole in the oversight of their properties and crime alerts. Overall this is a good program that deserves more attention and community involvement to make it as effective as intended.