Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision

 

Companion Materials: Funding and Financing Considerations


Introduction

The Regional Vision is intended to be used as a legal, planning, and policy tool. In turn, it is not a funding or financing guide or compendium. However, funding and financing will be critical to design and implement many of the housing and nature-based solutions identified through this work. As such, this part presents a high-level summary of some crosscutting, national-level takeaways organized according to funding and financing considerations for planning and projects, respectively.


Investing in Planning Processes

While plans themselves will not require the same amount of money upfront to implement “shovel-ready” projects, regional and local policymakers should nonetheless think about some priority needs. 

Planning processes will require administrative investments in staff time. This will be especially pertinent for out-of-cycle or discretionary plans that supplement legally mandated or priority plans — like local comprehensive and hazard mitigation plans — which may require new or unforeseen budgeting discussions. Investments in data and modeling around housing, flood risk, and land use may also be necessary where that information does not already exist or is not available in the public domain. 

For governments with limited staff capacity or planning expertise, one option can be to contract with outside private and nonprofit entities like the Center for Planning Excellence in Louisiana or colleges and universities. However, this will also call for additional funding, unless educational or nonprofit institutions are able to draw on external resources through private donations and philanthropic and government grants. 

In addition to staff time and resources, for planning processes to be equitable, they must be built around meaningful engagement with affected and interested community members and stakeholders. Deep and thoughtful engagement will require iterative investments throughout the duration of planning processes and into post-planning phases to implement projects and track and monitor progress. This may start by providing community members with adequate educational materials and information to actively participate in these processes. 

Beyond initial investments in education and outreach, regional and local policymakers should also evaluate community needs and barriers to joining in-person and virtual meetings. This can range from offering stipends and honoraria to recognize the expertise residents are contributing to offering free food and childcare to enable people to attend convenings held after work hours. 

Currently, regional and local governments are often restricted in their ability to use public funds for community engagement purposes, especially when it comes to federal grants. As such, policymakers should consult with their own legal counsel to evaluate questions about what types of activities are eligible under different funding programs. Regardless, partnerships with nonprofits and philanthropies can help to overcome these legal and administrative barriers. One example is from work between the state’s Office of Community Development and the Foundation for Louisiana to design and implement the Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments or “LA SAFE.”


Funding and Financing Housing and Nature-Based Projects

At the federal level, regional and local governments frequently target several types of funding — either on their own or through state agencies — to acquire, develop, rehabilitate, and preserve affordable housing: 

  • Federal disaster recovery grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)See footnote 1 and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD);See footnote 2
  • HUD Community Development Block Grants,See footnote 3 HUD Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program,See footnote 4 and HUD Low-Income Housing Tax Credits;See footnote 5 and 
  • Many forms of assistance available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for eligible “rural” areas, as determined by the department.See footnote 6 

Many of the disaster recovery examples from FEMA and HUD can also be used to mitigate future flooding using nature-based solutions, as discussed in resources like: Promoting Nature-Based Mitigation Through FEMA Mitigation Grants

In regard to flood mitigation, several federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have different grant and revolving loan programs that can support nature-based projects.See footnote 7

At the local level, bonds and tax credits and incentives are used, in addition to general appropriations to support both affordable housing and flood mitigation projects. As examples of the former, Asheville and Charlotte, North Carolina and Austin, Texas all passed housing-related bonds. To the latter, in 2018, Houston notably voted to approve a $2.5 billion flood bond.See footnote 8 In 2017, Miami, Florida passed the “Miami Forever Bond,” a $400 million general obligation bond. The bond will be allocated towards affordable housing projects, including in higher-elevation, lower-flood-risk areas of the city seeing development pressures, sea-level rise and flood adaptation measures, and parks, among other priorities. 

Despite common types of funding and financing at the federal and local levels, these discussions are rather project specific in practice. For example, most of the case studies written to support this work have a part dedicated to showing how regional and local jurisdictions are funding or financing their housing and environmental efforts. 

However, one crosscutting takeaway is apparent. Specifically, stories from across the country show that most housing and nature-based projects and initiatives are funded or financed through public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships and leveraging multiple sources of money. This type of collaborative model is illustrated across a spectrum. This can encompass less cash-intensive ideas from local governments providing resilient permitting incentives for private developers to reduce the costs associated with designing and permitting development projects (e.g., Norfolk, Virginia) to private investors contributing generous amounts of money to a city’s general housing trust fund (e.g., Charlotte, North Carolina). These types of partnerships are even more critical as policies and projects increase in both spatial and temporal scales and outpace the budgets or resources of any one jurisdiction or entity. Overall, this trend underscores a foundational principle to encourage government, private, and nongovernmental entities to share in the financial equities of this work — where no one actor or sector bears all of the costs and risks and everyone can share in the resulting social, environmental, and fiscal benefits.

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