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ABQ proposes turning more old hotels into affordable housing

Luna Lodge road sign

There’s a concerted effort at Albuquerque City Hall to expand access to housing. The Office of Equity and Inclusion recently released a needs assessment, the department of Family and Community Services is working on strategies to protect and create housing, and a public meeting last week on converting hotels into permanent housing was so well-attended another one is scheduled for Tuesday evening – this time online.

The city says Albuquerque needs about 28,000 homes for people making half of the average median income - or $27,000 a year. About 15,000 of those homes would be for people making only $16,000 a year.

Lisa Huval, Albuquerque’s Deputy Director of Housing, said she hopes that converting hotels and motels into efficiency apartments with a kitchenette could take a modest bite out of that need.

Huval said Albuquerque's Housing Forward Initiative calls for the development of 5,000 more homes than the market would create on its own and hotel conversions are an opportunity to make an efficient impact.

“There are a lot of underutilized properties, and we do think that it’s going to be faster and more cost effective to convert those properties to housing than to build from scratch,” she said.

Huval says the average market price of $666 a month for an efficiency apartment is manageable for most people.

Hotel conversions are nothing new. In Albuquerque the Luna Lodge and Sundowner along Route 66 comprise 140 apartments renovated in 2013 and 2014. And in the capital city, Santa Fe Suites has 120 units with another 58 under construction at the Lamplighter. Houston and Denver also have bolstered housing with hotel conversions.

Albuquerque has about $20 million in pandemic related federal HUD funds and city bond money from gross receipts taxes to spend on housing. Huval said a typical hotel the city might purchase costs from $5-8 million and would need about $3 million in renovations. The largest cost is for installing kitchenettes.

Huval hopes the city will take possession of a hotel with up to 125 rooms by early next year and have renovations done so people can move in by mid 2024.

The city requires residents to register for the online information session Tuesday at 5:30pm. They’ll have a panel to answer questions about hotel conversions.

UPDATE: This story was updated to clarify funding sources.

This report is part of our Your New Mexico Government project, a collaboration between KUNM radio and New Mexico PBS. Support for public media provided by the Thornburg Foundation.

Kaveh Mowahed is a reporter with KUNM who follows government, public health and housing. Send story ideas to kaveh@kunm.org.
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