Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision

Objective 3.4:

Incorporate resilience strategies in local plans and housing programs.

The Need

The need for resilient housing that is also affordable is critical to people of all income levels, but especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and lower-income residents across Region Seven as they recover from and prepare for flooding and extreme weather events. Housing stability is integral to individual resilience. Households with lower housing cost burdens have more adaptive capacity to bounce back and stay in place after floods and extreme weather. Meanwhile, cost-burdened households are more likely to face poor health outcomes, and are less likely than other households to access educational or employment opportunities. Housing stability is also critical to community resilience, helping to enhance social cohesion, build community ties, and enable residents to stay better connected — particularly during extreme weather or other emergencies when neighbors often become each others’ first responders.

As the need for resilient, affordable housing becomes more pressing, parishes and municipalities will need to consider a multi-pronged strategy with solutions that address the full scope of environmental and housing threats facing their communities — physical, economic, and social. Indeed, some communities in Region Seven have already begun to heavily feature environmental and climate resilience measures in local plans. In 2022, the community of Scotlandville in north Baton Rouge, developed a plan to help shape long-term development among public and private stakeholders. The plan, which was developed through a robust public participation process, not only centered the preservation and creation of affordable housing as a priority objective, but also incorporated themes around environmental improvements to enhance overall community resilience.

This objective provides strategies that parishes and municipalities could incorporate into their local planning processes and/or housing programs as part of a more comprehensive approach to addressing housing and community resilience. 

How to Make Progress on This Objective 

There are a variety of approaches that can be adopted by parishes and municipalities to more holistically center environmental risks and resiliency at the neighborhood level. The examples discussed below illustrate strategies that other jurisdictions have adopted to increase housing and overall community resilience. A few key approaches include: 

  • Developing risks assessments and vulnerability studies; 
  • Adopting resilient design guidelines
  • Incorporating resilient design in local plans; and/or
  • Building community resilience hubs to support neighborhood resilience. 

Risk Assessments and Vulnerability Studies 

Local governments could dedicate resources or partner with local universities to conduct risk assessments and vulnerability studies that map a community’s specific hazards and related impacts on the housing stock, in addition to evaluating the ability of its residents to adapt to and recover from those very hazards. 

Risk assessments, which measure the probability of specific hazards under future climate scenarios, identify both primary hazards (e.g., coastal or inland flooding, stormwater, extreme temperatures, major thunderstorms) and secondary hazards that accompany them (e.g., disease, toxin exposure, power and water outage). The assessments can also be used strategically to redirect resources to better support the growth and preservation of affordable housing, especially in the face of population and environmental changes. For example, studies can help identify the number of affordable housing developments in the floodplains, as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the specific properties that are more flood-prone. Identifying flood-prone properties can help local jurisdictions be more competitive when applying for flood mitigation funding. Parishes and municipalities can also partner with their local housing authority or agency — or seek assistance from local universities or other non-governmental organizations that can provide technical assistance — to integrate different flooding scenarios into their facility assessments to identify properties at greatest risk for flooding. For more information, see Objectives 5.2 and 5.3

Parishes and municipalities that conduct risk assessments can also integrate the results in vulnerability studies, which evaluate a community’s sensitivity to identified risks, for example, its ability to adapt to and recover from hazards like extreme heat or inland flooding. Vulnerability studies may include analyses of the building type, function, and population; interviews with owners and property managers; and individual site visits and assessments. For example, to determine the vulnerability of a multifamily unit to stormwater flooding, questions may include whether:

  • the building is located in a flood zone;
  • the property has a history of sewer or stormwater backups during heavy rain or flooding; and
  • there is an emergency management plan for both residents and building staff.

The outcome of vulnerability studies can help local decisionmakers better deploy scarce resources to neighborhoods and communities that are most in need.

Resilient Design Guidelines 

Parishes and municipalities can partner with nonprofits and/or technical experts to develop and promote resilient design guidelines, like those developed by the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. in Strategies for Multifamily Building Resilience, to provide strategies for retrofitting affordable housing buildings to protect them against different hazards.See footnote 1 Likewise, the cities of Norfolk, Miami, and Washington, D.C., are just a few additional examples of localities that have adopted and promoted design guidelines that can help protect homes and other structures from the impacts of flooding and extreme weather.See footnote 2 

Generally, design guidelines or standards can be used by government agencies, planners, architects, and engineers to incorporate features during the renovation or construction processes that enhance the resilience of a structure and the built environment. Resilience strategies vary from improvements like floodproofing buildings and installing pumps to measures that can increase energy efficiency and stormwater management. Guideline manuals can also provide strategies to enhance backup measures that provide critical services like access to potable water and emergency lighting when a building loses power. Guidelines could also provide strategies for building community resilience, such as measures to strengthen community ties and expand community spaces.


Parishes and municipalities that conduct risk assessments, conduct vulnerability studies, and promote resilient design guidelines can incorporate the information in local planning processes, for example in local comprehensive plans, neighborhood-level plans, or adaptation and resilience plans. Importantly, the information harvested from the studies described above can help guide local policymakers toward more informed planning and land-use decisions, and build political support for adopting local ordinances that include enhanced design guidelines. 

Community Resilience Hubs

Just as increasing resilience at the individual or household level can translate to enhanced resilience of the community at large, by the same token, dedicating resources to “greaux” or grow neighborhood-level resilience can direct resources to underserved households. In parishes and municipalities where increasing the resilience of individual homes is not structurally or financially feasible, local governments could dedicate resources to supporting hyperlocal institutions that focus on providing a range of services to residents. Specifically, several cities across the country have adopted or begun to explore the idea of creating a community resilience hub, which is another form of community amenity that can serve low-income residents and increase their resilience to flooding impacts and other external stressors. 

Generally, a resilience hub is a trusted community center that can provide essential services and amenities to neighborhood residents, before, during, and after a disaster event or other emergency (e.g., pandemic, public safety incident).See footnote 3 Resilience hubs are intended to support residents who will require the most resources during times of emergency, such as low-income households, the elderly, and people with disabilities. During emergencies, resilience hubs can operate as a central meeting space where residents can access critical resources, such as refrigeration for medication, charging stations, medical supplies, food, and water, as well as other supplies and services. To provide these functions, many resilience hubs have been designed to be equipped with off-grid and alternative energy and storage systems. 

Importantly, resilience hubs are designed to be a resource not only during times of a disaster or emergency, but also before and after disruptions. Accordingly, resilience hubs are typically housed in existing locations that are trusted community spaces and buildings, such as a church, library, or community recreation center. During non-emergency periods, resilience hubs can offer resources and services that enhance neighborhood connectivity, such as hosting after-school programs, providing access to basic health services (e.g., flu shots), conducting workforce development and job training initiatives, and helping residents prepare for hazards through education and awareness-building workshops. 

While resilience hubs are a fairly new concept, multiple cities have launched or are in the process of developing pilot resilience hub programs — from Orlando, Florida to Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C., to Portland, Oregon. Each hub is tailored to the specific needs of the local community; many, however, are designed to be scaled across cities in order to increase their accessibility for all residents. 

Local governments can help support the creation of resilience hubs by convening community members to guide a vision for the hubs (including the range of services and resources that the hubs should provide), sharing information about existing models of resilience hubs and connecting residents with experienced communities, and/or helping identify or apply for funding opportunities to build a potential hub. For example, in Washington, D.C., the District’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) convened a group of community residents in Far Northeast Ward 7, a neighborhood the city had identified as being the most flood vulnerable.See footnote 4 The residents met regularly for five years, during which the residents — with the support of DOEE and other project partners — identified a local community organization to site the hub and a list of services and amenities that should be offered by the hub. In addition to providing rooftop solar, DOEE also helped the selected community organization, the Fauntleroy Community Enrichment Center, to apply for external funding to support build out of its resilience hub infrastructure and programming. 

Crosscutting Considerations and Practice Tips

When evaluating strategies to increase the resilience of existing and future housing, decisionmakers may consider the following considerations and practice tips that apply to one or more of the strategies described above: 

  • Incorporate both quantitative and qualitative data to make informed decisions
  • Build public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships
  • Work at multiple, complementary scales

These tips are based on priority implementation best practices and considerations most relevant to this specific objective, and do not present an exhaustive list for regional and local planners and policymakers. In addition to this objective, decisionmakers should, at a minimum, also refer to Goal Five for crosscutting considerations and practice tips for implementation

  • Incorporate both quantitative and qualitative data to make informed decisions: Local governments should ground decisions about prioritizing resources for existing and future housing and development by using a mix of quantitative and qualitative data points. Quantitative data can be helpful for detecting patterns and predicting trends about future precipitation, population shifts, and land use. Local decisionmakers should also consult qualitative data, such as anecdotal evidence and other lived experiences, to layer on another critical perspective and help ground-truth the quantitative data sets. The process of gathering quantitative and qualitative data are complementary and reinforcing elements to understanding how communities change over time and the environmental stressors they face, leading to more inclusive and better informed legal and policy decisions. For more information, see Objectives 5.2 and 5.3.
  • Build public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships: Community-based organizations (CBO), universities, and other organizations can help increase the capacity of local governments to assess, prioritize, and implement resilience strategies. Some jurisdictions may lack technical expertise, administrative capacity, and/or financial resources to conduct risk assessments or develop resilient design guidelines. This work may be delegated to university researchers, nonprofit partners, or even state agency partners. In Washington, D.C., the District’s Department of Energy and Environment collaborated with multiple partners at Georgetown University to conduct risk assessments and facilitate community meetings in Ward 7. Universities and academic institutions can help bring a neutral voice to the table when discussing challenging topics, while relying on CBO can help local government staff bridge the trust deficit that may exist between community residents and their government. Importantly, residents who have experienced first-hand flooding and other housing stressors will be able to provide critical perspectives. They should be consulted early and often about the solutions to help address them.

  • Work at multiple, complementary scales: Local parishes and municipalities should consider tailoring resilience strategies not merely at the community level, but also at the neighborhood level, where possible. Whether assessing the flood risk of individual properties, encouraging building retrofits to meet resilient design guidelines, or supporting the creation of a network of resilience hubs within walking distance of all neighborhoods, local governments should adopt a telescoping approach to creating strategies for increased resilience. Just as local comprehensive plans and jurisdiction-wide programs are helpful to prioritize and plan for strategic development, adopting a narrower geographic lens that recognizes the unique needs of neighborhoods and even households can help ensure more targeted distribution of resources to increase individual and community resilience.

The summaries below highlight resources and case studies available in Georgetown Climate Center’s Adaptation Clearinghouse that are relevant to this objective. They illustrate how many of the above benefits, practice tips, and planning, legal, and policy tools were or are being evaluated and used in practice in different jurisdictions. To learn more and navigate to the Adaptation Clearinghouse, click on the “View Resource” buttons.


Table of Contents

  Read Previous Section Read Next Section  

Back to top