Pete Dinelli has made some waves with his recent column in the Albuquerque Journal in which he makes the case that “allowing the construction of 750 square-foot “casitas” and “duplex” additions in the backyards of all 120,000 residential lots that have existing homes” will make Albuquerque a shanty town, or at least an even worse one than it is.
The truth is that zoning and land use are complicated issues. Albuquerque has typically had strict and arbitrary rules while economically-dynamic Houston has no zoning laws on the books. The Rio Grande Foundation recognizes that Albuquerque and Houston are different places, but that a lighter touch to zoning would provide more and more affordable housing options in the City.
So, in the debate between Dinelli and Mayor Keller our sympathies lie broadly with Mayor Keller. Casitas (small living spaces added to existing houses) seem worthwhile. This is especially true in a city and state with a rapidly-aging population where such a housing option would be particularly helpful. Converting existing housing to duplexes needs further consideration and possibly more regulation than is provided for.