Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision

Objective 4.2:

Promote the awareness and acceptance of diversified types of affordable housing to minimize public opposition to planned and resilient residential growth in rural areas.

The Need

Planning, land-use, and zoning updates that integrate housing, flooding, and nature-based solutions are only part of the equation to build resilience in Region Seven. While these actions are critical elements of comprehensive resilience strategies, they are less effective and meaningful without the support of communities. Specifically, housing and flood mitigation priorities will not be reflected in community-driven plans and local ordinances if rural governments or communities are opposed to the idea of affordable housing — or what they perceive it to be. Therefore, this objective is an important foundation to developing and implementing resilient, housing-forward plans and ordinances. 

The term “affordable housing” is often charged with strong reactions and perceptions that can create barriers to preserving existing and constructing new housing opportunities. Whether these views are accurate or based on lived experiences is beyond the scope of the Regional Vision. Instead, the purpose of the Regional Vision is to enable more and deeper conversations about how regional and local policymakers can move closer towards a future that better enables an outcome of affordable housing for all, regardless of income level. At the outset, this work will often involve walking back from a narrow view of how affordable housing has traditionally been conceived and who it benefits to have open and honest discussions in communities about who lives or wants to live there; what are people’s current and forecasted income levels and housing needs; and what type of housing people can afford compared to what are the current and future types, numbers, conditions, and prices of homes in a jurisdiction. This drive to move beyond a narrow idea or view of what affordable housing is — or could be — is particularly acute in rural areas. 

Affordable housing is not only an urban challenge. Rural and suburbanizing areas experiencing growth pressures from urban centers will increasingly face questions about how to meet current and future housing demands while maintaining local character and culture and avoiding the displacement of existing residents. This can have a disproportionate impact on population segments like the elderly, owners of working lands (e.g., farms), and heirs to generational properties. Many of these people especially may have significant portions of their net worth and parts of their identities inextricably tied to the land. 

Furthermore, housing and rental markets may become more expensive due to new growth. A rise in rents and property values can more broadly affect people of all income levels who want to live and work in the same suburban or rural locations. This can encompass everyone from low-to-moderate income families and individuals to the teachers, firefighters, policemen and women, and other public servants that benefit from living and working in the same communities. 

In addition to the unique circumstances surrounding growth in many suburban and rural areas, affordable housing is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach where what works or is necessary in urban areas will fit everywhere. Moreover, what affordable housing looks like in suburbanizing and rural areas can look different than in urban ones. There is a spectrum of diverse housing needs. Along that spectrum, there are many gradations that can be adapted to meet local context and needs. This is an important distinction in rural communities where certain types of homes like duplexes and low-rise, garden apartments, for example, will likely be more compatible with preserving large-lot, single-family homes and rolling landscapes. This middle part of the housing spectrum between single-family homes and mid- and high-rise apartments is referred to as “missing middle” housing.


Credit: City of Norfolk, Virginia, plaNorfolk 2030, Missing Middle Pattern Book, available at (citing Opticos Design, Inc. and the "missing middle" housing term created by David Parolek). 

Also, the scale of affordable housing needs will be different in smaller, more rural municipalities compared to larger urban cities.  

Generally in Region Seven and nationally, nuanced, locally situated discussions around housing are not happening enough. This dearth of meaningful discussions could be attributed to a lack of information, peer-learning and educational opportunities, and/or local examples, among other factors. In many places, this can result in community bias — often referred to as “Not in My Backyard” or “NIMBYism” — that keeps affordable housing out of the places where it is needed most, including in rural areas. 

As such, regional and local policymakers should work with rural communities to present them with housing options and opportunities that match residents’ needs and priorities. Ideally, this will result in resilience strategies that are shaped by those affected and lead to the greater availability of safe rental units and homes that people can afford. Much of that can start with making progress on this objective to promote the awareness and acceptance of diversified types of affordable housing to minimize public opposition to planned and resilient residential growth in rural areas — in tandem with legal, planning, policy, and project interventions.

How to Make Progress on This Objective 

In “greauxing” or growing resilience, one of the foundational purposes of the Regional Vision is to promote a more inclusive and realistic idea of what is affordable housing. Here, the aim is to support a move away from a narrow, one-size-fits-all approach to the idea that everyone can have a safe home that they can afford. In other words, working towards affordable housing for all in Region Seven and beyond. 

At a minimum, there are three types of actions that regional and especially local governments with planning, land-use, and zoning authority can consider to build community support for diversified types of housing. Those three actions are:  

  • Planning;
  • Land use and zoning; and
  • Resilient housing pilots and prototypes.  

Policymakers can pursue these three actions either separately or together, depending on local context. However, stacked approaches can be the strongest. There are planning and land-use components to breaking down barriers to promote the awareness and acceptance of diversified types of affordable housing. Progress on this objective will also necessitate public education and outreach campaigns and literally building resilient homes. In this way, each action can mutually reinforce the others.

Regional and local policymakers can look to seed these ideas before and/or during planning and land-use processes. Among other factors, this will depend on the entry point that is most appropriate and enables maximum engagement opportunities for residents. At a minimum, people should first be provided with sufficient time and resources to learn about and inform potential housing futures and projects in their jurisdictions. Then, they can decide whether and how to support the work proposed in their neighborhoods and communities. 


First, regional and local governments should provide a medium via planning to consider and prioritize multiple types of resilient housing that are affordable to people across all income levels. Plans can serve as a visioning opportunity for stakeholders to contribute their housing needs and priorities. Plans can also serve as a chance for policymakers to brainstorm and provide resources on what missing middle housing options are, for example, to share mockups of what affordable housing can look like in rural areas. This can help to support the ideas coming from communities while managing opposition or NIMBYISM. Through this approach, policymakers can learn from but also educate residents about resilient affordable housing options in ways that are locally appropriate and relevant. 

Land Use and Zoning

Second, but closely tied to planning, policymakers should align housing goals and objectives with land-use and zoning ordinances. Land-use and zoning ordinances can serve as a bridge — or be an obstacle — between planning and implementing projects to enable diverse types of housing to be proposed, approved, sited, and constructed in accordance with local legal requirements. For example, new duplexes could draw interest and support from community members and prospective home builders alike and be prioritized as a preferred housing option in a neighborhood’s housing plan. However, this will make no difference if the residential portions of a parish’s or incorporated municipality’s local regulations are only zoned for single-family homes. Accordingly, local ordinances should be updated or flexible enough to align community needs and priorities articulated in planning documents with on-the-ground housing opportunities. 

The City of Asheville, North Carolina’s local comprehensive plan, Living Asheville, was guided by neighborhood-specific plans that fed into the city-wide comprehensive plan to account for different housing and other needs that vary across the city. In coordinating planning and land-use actions, Asheville is looking at ways to require future development and growth standards that are in accordance with these housing priorities and design standards. 

Where plans and ordinances are not already aligned, planning processes can also identify the need for potential legal updates that must occur before policy changes can be implemented or homes can be constructed. By identifying these potential changes early, policymakers can initiate additional decisionmaking processes sooner rather than later. This will allow for more lead time before home builders and developers, for example, submit permit applications. This can save governments and private and nonprofit home builders and developers both time and money. 

For example, Rush River Commons is a proposed mixed-use development in the small Town of Washington, Virginia. The project is expected to have several different rural-appropriate housing groupings that will include townhouses, referred to as village homes, and stacked housing, referred to as villas, and will include three main structures situated around a central green park space. 

The proponents of the Rush River Commons project cited the town’s current Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance as a time and cost saver while designing their project. Specifically, the town’s PUD ordinance already allowed the project proponents “to increase residential population in the Town . . . [by permitting] zoning flexibility and flexibility in the design of new residential uses and mixed uses . . . .” in a way that was “not [previously] available” before 2019.See footnote 1 This enabled the Rush River Commons project to proceed without having to go through additional processes to amend the town’s local comprehensive plan and ordinance. 

Resilient Pilots and Prototypes

Building on plans and ordinances, the third high-level way policymakers can promote multiple types of affordable housing is to support the development of resilient homes and subdivisions that can function as pilots and prototypes. Here, governments could prioritize a range of missing middle homes that are built to resilient design standards and use quality materials. In addition to serving as actual residences, pilot homes have the potential to serve as demonstration sites that can educate residents about the benefits of resilient housing prototypes. 

By acting on this idea, regional and local governments can contribute to efforts to socialize and mainstream the awareness and acceptance of diverse housing options in their communities inside or outside of planning and land-use and zoning processes. One aim of these types of builds would be to increase community awareness and acceptance of diverse types of resilient, affordable housing and breakdown opposition to these individual homes and/or larger-scale subdivisions or developments. Another purpose of these builds would be to provide proofs of concept prior to investing significant resources at scale to meet housing needs. 

Physical examples of affordable housing in suburban and rural locations give people tangible opportunities to realize what they look like on the ground. With the right demonstration projects, this can help people see the quality of well-built homes first hand and assess whether they are compatible with rural living. This can be especially important for manufactured and modular homes (also known as trailers or mobile homes) communities. Manufactured homes are one of the most common types of affordable housing in the United States and Louisiana.See footnote 2 However, they are more often subject to NIMBYism and predatory land-use practices that either prevent them from even becoming an affordable housing option or displace existing residents from their communities.

Governments can support this objective in many ways. First, regional and local governments can promote examples of resilient and missing middle housing in their community by initiating or supporting educational and outreach campaigns. There may also be chances for governments to convene or, alternatively, participate in externally led meetings between residents, home builders, and other experts during planning and land-use and zoning processes and project implementation. 

On the regulatory side, local policymakers can also update comprehensive plans and ordinances to incentivize or require resilient, missing middle homes through permitting processes (e.g., Norfolk, Virginia Resilient Quotient Points System and housing design books). In addition, policymakers can work with homeowners, developers, landlords, and renters to encourage or create opportunities for people to visit and learn about these homes and what it is like to live in them. It is important to note that this approach would have to be done in ways that are respectful of and do not appropriate the people living in these places.

For example, in New Orleans’s Seventh Ward, a local project team led by J.B. Holton and Associates is planning to construct a resilient housing prototype that can adapt to changing conditions in a flood-prone neighborhood. The prototype will create two affordable housing units in a duplex for low- to moderate-income individuals or families. The two single-family homes will be elevated above base flood heights and use hemp-based materials for insulation as a sustainable building material that is more resistant to moisture and pests than traditional insulation. The project team will use a “work and learn” approach for engagement with the surrounding community. The team will allow community members to be on site during construction and see the housing as it is being built. Then, the team will invite those residents to come back to the housing site after construction has finished to see the property in its completed state. 

Once the duplex is built and the units are rented, the project team also intends to monitor the hemp and other investments in the home to evaluate their long-term costs and efficacy. The team will aim to share this information with other community organizations and home developers to inspire future resilient construction in New Orleans and beyond.  

In some instances, governments can even evaluate the potential to fund pilot and demonstration sites for new resilient homes. For example, this could occur on parish- or municipal-owned vacant, abandoned, and/or deteriorated lots. Governments could pursue this path either alone (e.g., Resilient Edgemere in Queens, New York) or in partnership with socially conscious private and nonprofit developers (e.g., New Orleans, Louisiana: Resilient Housing Prototype in the Seventh Ward) and other organizations like philanthropies or Habitats for Humanity (e.g., Rush River Commons in Virginia; Fauquier Habitat for Humanity Haiti Street Neighborhood Revitalization in Virginia) (For more information about vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated or "VAD" properties and community resilience, see Objective 1.3). 

Alternatively, governments can purchase a range of existing types of homes, even if only temporarily, to implement retrofits and infrastructure upgrades. The City of Boulder, Colorado, purchased two manufactured housing communities as a way to address failing infrastructure and safety issues. The city does not intend to become the permanent owner of either community. Instead, Boulder is using city resources to preserve and improve the home sites before eventually selling or transferring them to new, long-term owners liks nonprofits or housing authorities.

These types of projects can occur on different scales. However, if built and used strategically, the benefits and awareness of even a single home or subdivision could be significant and encourage more governments, neighborhoods, and developers to follow suit. 

Crosscutting Considerations and Practice Tips

When creating and implementing strategies that promote diverse affordable housing options in rural areas, decisionmakers may consider the following crosscutting considerations and practice tips:

  • Promote missing middle housing
  • Integrate diverse housing options throughout a jurisdiction’s residential and mixed-use areas
  • Proceed with an open mind
  • Promote awareness and acceptance among regional and local government colleagues
  • Engage communities in public information and educational campaigns
  • Build public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships 

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 including structuring equitable and inclusive community engagement processes and evaluating opportunities to build public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships. 

It is important to acknowledge that every jurisdiction will be starting from a different place and have a unique local context and needs, among other factors. Therefore, these considerations and practice tips could be adopted individually, collectively, or not at all. It will be up to policymakers to work directly with their communities and other key stakeholders and partners to assess and determine potential tools and approaches to implement this goal and objective. 

  • Promote missing middle housing: As stated above, missing middle housing refers to a range of locally specific types of housing, such as townhomes, duplexes, and triplexes, in addition to single-family housing and apartment complexes. Policymakers should evaluate the potential to encourage missing middle housing options in appropriate rural zones or neighborhoods to provide a range of housing options available to people at different income levels and with different housing needs. 

    Missing middle housing can factor into each of the “How to” entry points above for this objective. Missing middle housing should be prioritized in plans and aligned with updates to local ordinances to enable their construction. Further, different types of missing middle housing built according to resilient design standards could serve as pilots or prototypes to socialize these concepts.
  • Integrate diverse housing options throughout a jurisdiction's residential and mixed-use areas: In addition to prioritizing, designing, and constructing diverse, resilient housing options, there is also a spatial component to implementing this objective that cuts across planning, land use and zoning, and individual home builds. Specifically, plans and local ordinances should promote the equitable integration of diverse housing types throughout flood-safe, residential and mixed-use areas of a rural community. This is in contrast to relegating affordable and missing middle housing options to select areas of a parish or municipality. Spatial segregation of housing can reinforce affordable housing stigmas and stereotypes and detract from increasing their acceptance and visibility. This can come into play with items like future growth or land-use maps included in local comprehensive plans to minimum lot and setback requirements in local ordinances that could either promote or preclude missing middle housing options from being sited, approved, and developed throughout a parish’s or municipality’s residential and mixed-use areas. As many jurisdictions balance housing needs with population growth and transitions and environmental threats like flooding, this spatial component of housing plans and strategies should be front and center.

    The one exception to this recommendation is that sometimes, overlay zones may serve a protective function for preserving existing homes and housing diversity, like mobile homes or manufactured housing communities (compare the use of such a zone in Living Cully in Portland, Oregon). Planners and policymakers should carefully examine when and where overlay zones and development regulations will support or reinforce rather than prevent or eliminate diverse affordable housing opportunities. 
  • Proceed with an open mind: Many of the ideas underscoring this objective may be new, or stigmatized, to individuals and rural communities at-large because they have yet to be piloted or mainstreamed. Therefore, it will take time and patience to brainstorm ways to integrate different types of housing into plans and local ordinances, let alone on-the-ground projects. However, to effectively socialize and hopefully mainstream the awareness and acceptance of a diverse range of housing types that are compatible with rural communities, regional and local policymakers can initiate these longer-term processes by serving as thought leaders and listeners to learn from developers and communities about housing innovations and residential needs. Listening to and learning about new affordable and resilient design concepts can be just the start that this objective needs. 

    Certainly, there are no guarantees that these types of listening and learning opportunities will dictate any particular outcome. However, they can potentially contribute to more thoughtful and comprehensive decisionmaking processes that are better aligned with community interests and needs. 
  • Promote awareness and acceptance among regional and local government colleagues: Community engagement around missing middle and resilient housing can serve the dual benefit of breaking down a lack of awareness of or opposition to affordable housing that may exist inside the government itself. Planners and policymakers should evaluate strategies to work with community members, nongovernmental housing organizations and experts, and peer jurisdictions to learn more about people’s housing needs and priorities, stay up-to-date on new information and resources, and educate colleagues and elected officials on these important issues. Planners and elected officials have the authority to draft and adopt official plans and local regulations. As such, they have to be equally familiar with and convinced of a diverse and resilient housing future. 

    One positive example for how communities can work successfully with local governments comes from Portland, Oregon. In 2016, the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park in the Cully neighborhood of Portland was threatened with closure and sale to a residential developer that planned to evict all residents.See footnote 3 This project to develop new residences on the property would have displaced almost 30 households.See footnote 4 The threat to the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park mobilized the Cully neighborhood to act to protect all the manufactured housing communities (MHC) (also locally called mobile home parks) in Portland. 

    As a result of this campaign to protect MHC, in 2018, Portland amended the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning code to adopt a new base zoning district, called the Manufactured Dwelling Park Zone.See footnote 5 This zone applies to all 57 MHC in Portland and requires that this land only be used for these types of communities and cannot be used for any other type of residential or commercial purpose.See footnote 6 

    Community mobilization, organizing, and activism were integral to amending Portland’s comprehensive plan and zoning code and protecting MHC in the city. One of the primary driving forces behind these changes was Living Cully, a coalition of four community development organizations with the goal of improving the quality of life for people of color and low-income people in Portland’s Cully neighborhood.See footnote 7 When the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park was originally threatened, Living Cully subsequently sprung into action to protect the park and its residents, developing a campaign to change Portland’s comprehensive plan and zoning laws. 

    As part of this campaign, MHC residents from Cully conducted outreach to other MHC around the city to inform the people who would be impacted by the zoning changes and garner support across the city. Living Cully also organized direct interactions between MHC residents and Portland political officials. Residents from the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park and other MHC around Portland gave testimony in front of the city’s Planning Commission. The aim of this testimony was to educate Planning Commissioners about these communities and personally combat negative stereotypes of MHC and their residents.

    One common misconception held by city officials broadly was that MHC are simply an undesirable housing option of last resort for most people. Public testimonies from MHC residents worked to show the city otherwise. Specifically, many residents spoke about how they choose to and enjoy living in MHC, as they are an affordable housing option that offers strong community ties, autonomy over personal space and property, and options for aging in place. Finally, members of Living Cully and MHC invited city staff and officials to visit Portland’s MHC and interact with the residents one-on-one in an effort to underscore the importance of these communities and this type of affordable housing.

    This example illustrates the value of working with political officials and local government staff to provide them with tangible opportunities to directly engage with MHC residents. Here, local officials and staff heard from residents at public hearings and visited MHC sites in-person. Collectively, these community-driven efforts worked to overcome the negative stigmas often associated with MHC to successfully pass inclusive and equitable legal updates. 
  • Engage communities in public information and educational campaigns: Although housing will require collaborative brainstorming and action among policymakers, elected officials, and developers alike, communities are similarly a critical part of this engagement. Parish and municipal residents know about and experience housing affordability and availability challenges first hand. As such, housing solutions should be community driven. 

    However, to actively participate in these decisionmaking processes, people need to be aware of all of the potential housing options on the table. As such, policymakers should not start housing discussions with a predetermined outcome. Instead, regional and local policymakers should listen to community needs around housing and then objectively present a range of housing options tailored to meet those needs that residents can consider. This educational and awareness-building aspect of planning, land-use and zoning, and projects is important to adapt to changing housing needs and futures in the face of flooding and population growth.

    Through the construction of new resilient homes and developments, policymakers can also use pilot or test sites to educate community members about the potential for and benefits of missing middle housing and how they can be cohesive with single-family homes and rural landscapes.

    Ideally, government-supported actions like these for creating transparent decisionmaking processes, providing information to enable more people to have a meaningful seat at the decisionmaking table, and increasing housing diversity can all mutually reinforce opportunities to both greaux and increase local acceptance of housing types that are relevant to and compatible with different rural communities. 
  • Build public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships: As evidenced throughout this part, governments, developers, and communities each play a different, but critical role from land-use regulation to construction and funding and financing in making progress on this objective. That is in addition to other stakeholders like environmental and conservation advocates, historic preservationists, and others who will factor into these decisionmaking processes. Accordingly, it will be critical to form broad-based coalitions and partnerships to set up and facilitate the successful implementation of housing solutions in rural communities.   

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. 


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