ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Bernalillo County Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada recently built a casita on his property for his mother. He says the second dwelling has been a blessing and gives him comfort knowing she’s safe. “My mom is 88 years old. She lived right on Yucca, she was a tough lady, but at 88 years old, you’re no longer a tough lady, you’re a target,” Quezada said.
The Board of Commissioners approved an amendment to the county’s zoning code that will soon make the process of applying for and building a casita easier. Previously, if someone wanted to develop a casita on their property, they would have to get a special permit which was usually a long and expensive process.
“This is an attempt to lower the burden for county residents to explore their options for housing for themselves, family members, or develop rental units as they see fit,” Nicholas Hamm, the County’s Zoning Administrator, said.
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A conditional use permit, which requires a hearing, and a building permit will still be in place along with other rules, including creating additional parking. The casita would have to be a certain distance away from the original dwelling. The homeowner would also have to prove they can meet the county’s environmental health code requirements, water supply, and disposal process.
Bernalillo County hopes this will create additional housing options for people. “It just felt like the context of the world right now, being the lack of affordable housing, construction costs,” Hamm said.
But not everyone says this is the right answer. The People’s Housing Project doesn’t see this putting a solid dent in the housing crisis.
“Without any type of ceiling on how much people are paying for their housing, whether it’s a casita or an apartment, they can still be price evicted; the landlord can still raise their rent to a price that a person can’t afford,” Anna Lee Desaulniers, an organizer with the People’s Housing Project said.
The new rules will only apply to unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County, the city of Albuquerque is not included in this. The rules will go into effect in mid-September.