Route 66 News

Bond fund cuts may jeopardize future motel revitalization in Albuquerque

The City of Albuquerque is proposing an 83 percent cut in bond funds for affordable housing, jeopardizing possible future renovations and reuse of old Route 66 properties in the city, according to an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal.

John Bloomfield, executive director of NewLife Homes, wrote the piece. NewLife guided the renovation and reuse of the Luna Lodge and is fixing up the Sundowner Motel, both on Route 66, so they could be used for low-income housing.

Bloomfield wrote:

The Sundowner and Luna projects represent the best in public/private partnerships, involving multiple agencies and funding sources working collaboratively to bring much-needed development to Albuquerque’s vibrant International District. Together these two projects brought in more than $10 million of private investment and sustainable (green) tax credits to purchase historic, low-income housing, money that otherwise would not have come to New Mexico. […]

Belt-tightening is expected and fair, but radical surgery to the order of 83 percent is unfair, and would stall affordable housing in the city precisely at a time when other municipalities in the state such as Hobbs are competing for investor dollars and are increasing their investment in affordable housing. It is much easier to keep private investors, much more difficult to bring them back if they’ve gone cold on the city due to a radical reduction in city funding for affordable housing. […]

The economic impact of affordable housing has been quantified in numerous national studies such as the 2011 Ohio Housing Trust Fund for homeless and affordable housing, which concluded that every $1 spent on affordable housing by the state had an impact of $14.54 on Ohio’s economy. It would be difficult to find an investment with those kinds of returns.

The gist of Bloomfield’s argument — that city funding reductions are necessary, but an 83 percent cut is draconian — seems sensible. And he makes a persuasive case that investing in affordable housing creates many returns to the community.

Bloomfield also mentions that reusing an old and decaying motel removes a blight from a neighborhood. NewLife’s approach also brings a measure of historic preservation to these properties.

That proves especially true in a city such as Albuquerque, which suffers from a glut of motel rooms along the Route 66 corridor. Not enough Route 66 travelers exist to make all of those motels financially viable. So finding an adaptive re-use for those properties remains essential for their future.


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