Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision
Incorporate resilience strategies in local plans and housing programs.
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.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Baton Rouge–Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Scotlandville Community Strategic Plan
Between 2019 and 2022, Southern University worked with community partners in Scotlandville, located in north Baton Rouge, to develop a blueprint for improving housing and other socioeconomic outcomes for Scotlandville’s residents. The Scotlandville Community Strategic Plan (Community Plan) is an example of how one Louisiana community has used public participation and community planning to address housing shortages and other challenges in a chronically disinvested community. The Community Plan also helps to highlight the role that universities and other non-government institutions can play to develop and implement comprehensive community visions for housing and other services to help increase local resilience. One of the most prominent themes in the Community Plan is the focus on creating and preserving affordable housing for all of Scotlandville’s residents. Unlike many planning documents in which proposed housing initiatives are contained within a discrete section, the Community Plan elevates affordable housing as a priority by incorporating goals and recommendations across all but one of the key issue areas. In doing so, the residents and project team recognize the centrality of housing to successful outcomes in all community goals, including neighborhood beautification and reducing food insecurity. Parishes and municipalities can look to nongovernment-led planning processes like the Scotlandville Community Plan as an example of how local government staff can lend technical assistance to the creation of community plans, particularly those that integrate housing and other concepts to build both individual and community resilience.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Asheville, North Carolina: Affordable Housing, Environmental, and Climate Resiliency Initiatives
In February 2021, Enterprise Community Partners and the City of Miami, Florida released Keep Safe Miami, a set of tools aimed at owners and operators of affordable multifamily housing properties in Miami-Dade County. The tools can help property owners identify potential adaptation actions to increase the resilience of existing affordable housing to local climate change hazards, including sea-level rise and extreme weather events. Owners and operators of affordable housing units can use Keep Safe Miami’s resources to compare climate-related risks, prioritize adaptation strategies, and access local, state, and federal funding sources. As part of the program, the City of Miami also set aside $500,000 in deferred loans for owners and operators participating in the Keep Safe Miami program. Keep Safe Miami provides an example of how parishes and municipalities can collaborate with nonprofit stakeholders to develop technical guidance to help existing properties withstand the impacts of flooding and other climate hazards.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Boulder, Colorado: Affordable Housing, Manufactured Housing, and Environmental Plans and Initiatives
Over the last two decades, Asheville, North Carolina has released a comprehensive plan and housing plan, a housing assessment, and policies related to growing the city’s climate and environmental resilience and ensuring an adequate affordable housing stock in the face of an increasing population. Accordingly, the city has pursued — and aims to continue pursuing — strategies that preserve the city’s culture and character while making the area a safer, more affordable place. Urban, more suburban, as well as rural municipalities may be able to learn from Asheville’s various housing plans, assessments, and strategies, especially by leading with a resilience lens.
City of Charleston, South Carolina Comprehensive Plan 2021
The city of Boulder, Colorado is experiencing the joint pressures of rapid regional population growth and climate change. Although a large municipality, the city consists of a varied landscape that cuts across urban, suburban, and rural areas. As such, the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan is a strong example of a municipal comprehensive plan that incorporates affordable housing, manufactured housing communities, and anti-displacement provisions, as well as environmental and land-use considerations across the urban-rural spectrum. This plan can serve as an example of how a local government can holistically approach all of these different sectors in a diverse jurisdiction with a range of housing and environmental needs.
Notably, the city acknowledges the need for residents to be able to afford to live in their homes across different income levels through its low-, moderate-, and middle-income designations. Other local governments could similarly think about examining the demographics and economic makeup of their communities to support the development of an affordable housing approach that aims to address housing affordability for all.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Gonzales, Louisiana: Gonzales Comprehensive Plan
In the Charleston City Plan 2021, the City of Charleston presents a roadmap to guide land-use planning, policy, and investment through 2030 with a focus on creating a more resilient and equitable future. This state-mandated comprehensive plan can serve as a resource and tool for a variety of users including city staff, residents, and community organizations. In the plan, the city focuses its recommendations on areas within Charleston’s Urban Growth Boundary and more specifically, addresses the unique characteristics of the five areas of the city that are separated by waterways. Charleston demonstrates how parishes and municipalities can weave resilience into their local comprehensive plan or other planning processes, prioritizing resilience and equity as an independent Plan element, and/or incorporating housing and land-use strategies to manage population growth and affordability in the face of increasing flood risk.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Norfolk, Virginia: PlaNorfolk 2030, Norfolk Vision 2100, and Resilience Zoning Updates
The City of Gonzales, Louisiana is located in the eastern part of Ascension Parish and centrally located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Facing increasing retail and commercial development, the city updated its local comprehensive plan to accommodate rapid growth. The plan’s affordable housing considerations include diversifying the options and affordability of the housing stock in Gonzales. One relevant guiding principle in the plan is to “[p]rovide a range of housing types for people of all income levels from high-end to affordable. Building on this guiding principle in the plan’s Land Use and Community Character section, the city also details more discrete action items for affordable housing like: “Provide more housing choices, such as townhomes, smaller units, and affordable housing for youth, retail workers, and the aging population . . . .” In the plan, the city presents a clear strategic framework for the future growth of Gonzales, including a housing framework that other local governments with comprehensive plans can consider emulating.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Austin, Texas: Affordable Housing and Green Infrastructure Efforts
The City of Norfolk, Virginia is a mature, developed municipality where only 3.1 percent of the city’s land remains vacant. As such, Norfolk’s planning to increase affordable housing development acknowledges that new development will be limited to primarily redevelopment or infill. The city nevertheless recognizes a need for more affordable housing and has developed some approaches to increasing local housing stock under this context. To this end, plaNorfolk 2030, the city’s local comprehensive plan, contains some actions, including ensuring that the zoning ordinance permits a variety of residential densities and housing types and encouraging compatible infill housing on vacant and underutilized parcels to minimize land costs. The city has also added different housing-related appendices to plaNorfolk that include free design plans for property owners and builders who want to develop or redevelop their parcels or vacant lots. The design books are specific to different neighborhoods and aim to promote resilient, higher-density, and more diverse housing options like the: Traditional Neighborhoods Plan Book: Chapter One — Olde Huntersville, the Design Principles for Multifamily Development, Missing Middle Pattern Book, and Narrow Lot House Plan Catalog. Other urban localities could seek to adapt their zoning ordinances and comprehensive plans and create design books that support a range of locally appropriate affordable housing options.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Columbia, South Carolina: Columbia Compass: Envision 2036 and Affordable Housing Task Force
The Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint is a ten-year affordable housing plan adopted in 2017 by the city to guide its affordable housing efforts. The planning effort was led by the Austin Department of Neighborhood Housing and Community Development (NHCD) and was informed by the 2017 Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequalities. The task force officially recognized that the city’s historic policies have contributed to racial segregation at the regional level and limited people of color from opportunities for upward mobility. Austin is planning and implementing several strategies to increase its housing stock for all income levels. Efforts to increase affordable housing stock focus on planning, creating development incentives, streamlining permitting processes, and updating the city’s land development code. Other policymakers in receiving areas gaining population can look to Austin’s Housing Blueprint as one example of a growing jurisdiction identifying affordable housing needs and proposing strategies to meet housing goals.
City of New York, New York: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan
In recent years, the City of Columbia, South Carolina has made several strides to address its affordable housing challenges. In 2020, the city updated its comprehensive plan, which includes 12 discrete recommendations for preserving and producing affordable housing in the region. Simultaneously, in 2020 the city convened a new Affordable Housing Task Force to provide housing experts and stakeholders an opportunity to help shape local housing initiatives, as well as to rethink traditional notions of “affordable housing.” Columbia serves as an example of how cities can deploy an arsenal of resources — comprehensive plans, community Task Force groups, and even examples from other cities — to address ongoing affordable housing challenges. By creating opportunities for collaborative and locally informed approaches to housing, municipalities can better understand the housing needs of their residents, as well as provide more holistic solutions for long-term housing security by bringing to the table stakeholders with diverse resources and expertise.
Virginia Beach Sea Level Wise Adaptation Strategy
In December 2021, the New York City Department of City Planning (NYCDCP) released its third Comprehensive Waterfront Plan (the Plan) which outlines a ten-year vision for the creation of a more equitable, more resilient, and healthier waterfront. The NYCDP developed the Plan in accordance with its climate justice principle to equitably distribute climate resources and construct resilient and sustainable environments citywide. Among other parts of the Plan, it presents opportunities for the city to proactively incorporate climate resiliency and adaptation into its processes for everyday decisionmaking and long-term planning. One of the Plan’s five adaptation goals also focuses on housing solutions for residents of flood-prone neighborhoods. NYCDP presents an example of how cities can lead with climate and environmental justice priorities to develop resilience plans to support residents who live on the frontlines of flooding and other extreme weather events.
The City of Virginia Beach, Virginia Sea Level Wise Adaptation Strategy is designed to help guide the city’s steps to become more resilient and adapt to sea-level rise and flooding by gradually implementing actions through a watershed-based approach. Virginia Beach consists of four watersheds, both inland and coastal, that are characterized by unique physical properties and land-use patterns and affected by five distinct types of flooding - high tide, wind tide, storm surge, rainfall/compounding, and groundwater flooding. To accommodate these differences, four watershed-specific plans were developed with a suite of adaptation tools and projects for each watershed. The city applied a general “Adaptation Framework” that includes four primary categories of adaptation tools or responses - natural mitigations, engineered defenses, adapted structures, and prepared communities - to address the diverse needs of each of the city’s watersheds. The strategy is the result of a five-year, city-led effort to engage the community and study sea-level rise and flooding in Virginia Beach. The strategy is noteworthy for identifying adaptation tools and projects based on the different types of flooding that occur in each of the city’s watersheds. Other local governments may consider this example to similarly craft watershed- or neighborhood-scale adaptation plans in jurisdictions with diverse flooding risks, geographies, and land-use patterns.