Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision
Educate and engage community members, stakeholders, and policymakers at all levels of government through equitable processes to design, implement, and sustain priorities for housing and natural resilience over the long term.
Creating and implementing laws, policies, plans, and projects that address affordable housing and nature-based solutions is an important step to increasing community resilience. While local and regional jurisdictions develop plans and policies that meet state and local legal requirements (e.g., sunshine or public meeting laws), simply meeting those requirements may not be enough. This level of engagement, even if well-intentioned, may not go far enough to lead to meaningful and equitable opportunities for engagement that are aligned with what communities expect and need.
The long-term success of solutions may depend on how effectively the solutions support the residents they are intended to serve. This is particularly important when it comes to thinking about the places people call home in response to population and flooding changes to support overall goals of individual and community-wide resilience. One way to make sure these solutions work better for a community is to create meaningful and equitable opportunities for community engagement before, during, and after the implementation of solutions.
To illustrate, many jurisdictions engage communities in discussions around efforts like plans, but not all jurisdictions are implementing best or emerging practice recommendations for what is considered meaningful engagement. For example, policymakers may come into communities seeking approval on nearly final decisions. This could be perceived as “checking the box” on public engagement without adequately asking residents about and understanding their needs and concerns. Additionally, many engagement processes often end once planning is complete. As such, governments could fail to continue working with communities on plans or project implementation or offer updates on progress.
In addition to a need for more effective and long-term community engagement, there is also a general lack of educational and engagement mechanisms for regional and local policymakers to learn about housing and natural resilience from, and how to work better with other stakeholders — and vice versa. New and sustained educational and engagement opportunities can lead to more and stronger partnerships and collaborations. This is one way that policymakers can work together to build bridges between and dismantle silos across sectors and bring people from inside and outside government together to learn from one another and connect.
How to Make Progress on This Objective
To craft community-specific, equitable laws, plans, policies, and projects, policymakers should comprehensively understand the needs of the community they are serving. Rather than implementing a “cookie-cutter” approach, approaches for housing and natural resilience must be curated to address a community’s history, culture, and unique issues. The long-term success of tools and strategies is dependent in part on how well solutions address a community’s needs. Engagement must also include a diverse group of community members, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and low-income stakeholders, and others that represent the makeup of the community, to the greatest extent practicable.
This part presents four categories or ways of how regional and local governments can approach affordable housing and natural resilience:
- Creating and implementing plans;
- Updating land-use and zoning laws and policies;
- Proposing and implementing projects; and
- Strengthening regional and local public participation laws and policies.
While there are some overlapping considerations for each of these entry points into housing and nature-based processes, it is important to call out each one separately because planning, land use and zoning, and projects can occur together or in distinct tracks. Ideally, cumulative, sequential processes — from planning to land use and zoning to project implementation — can help build on and reinforce one another to maximize alignment.
In contrast, the fourth type of action related to public participation laws and policies is an overarching action that cuts across all of the other three. At the local level, strengthening and enhancing public participation laws and policies at the local level can increase opportunities for decisionmakers to meaningfully and equitably collaborate with communities in the development of plans, ordinances, and projects that address affordable housing and natural resilience.
Plans can set a comprehensive framework that guides how laws, policies, and projects are implemented. Plans go by many names and take a variety of forms. They are developed at different and multiple levels of government and are prepared on multiple geographic scales. Some are legally required and others out-of-cycle or discretionary.
It is critical for policymakers at all levels to center community needs and ideas, especially from BIPOC and low-income communities that are experiencing the first and worst impacts of climate change, throughout all stages of planning and project implementation and design. If a plan is created without diverse community input, then the plan may not effectively address the unique issues and concerns of affected residents.
Working with stakeholders is not just important when a plan is being developed. Policymakers should continue communicating with residents during the implementation of projects and once projects are completed. To achieve this, planners should aim to have community engagement events and meetings before a plan is drafted, while a plan is being drafted, after a plan is drafted, and throughout implementation. Transparent efforts can help regional and local governments to build and maintain trust with community members and increase buy-in from residents and support for proposed housing and resilience projects identified in plans.
Community engagement events should be used as an opportunity for co-developing potential laws, policies, and projects with communities that address everyday and long-term challenges rather than planners proposing ideas and trying to get community buy-in retroactively. Effective community engagement takes effort and is time consuming, but it is an important step to crafting solutions in a plan that actually solve a community’s unique issues. If a plan does not address community needs, then the time and effort to craft it will be wasted. This can be particularly acute given limited resources and staff capacity at the local level.
Once planners host community engagement events, it is important for the planners to stay engaged with those members and keep them updated. This will create opportunities for accountability between planners and participants while also introducing additional opportunities for feedback and trust building. After events, drafters should analyze any evaluative feedback they received during events and decide how they will take that feedback into account to support future efforts. Once drafters decide what feedback they will or will not incorporate, their reasoning should be communicated to residents. This type of transparency shows that every opinion was valued and taken into consideration and can encourage residents to participate in future government processes.
Land Use and Zoning
Creating and updating local land-use and/or zoning ordinances can be used to increase affordable housing options and nature-based solutions in a community. Local governments have the primary authority to regulate land uses in their communities through zoning and floodplain ordinances. Land use is connected to, but also distinct from zoning. Land use contemplates the economic and cultural “human use of land” and the different uses on public and private land.See footnote 1 Conversely, zoning ordinances provide the legal framework that governs the use and development of land in a municipality according to different districts based on the uses that are permitted (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial).See footnote 2 These restrictions can be crafted to promote social welfare and environmental protection.See footnote 3 Some jurisdictions may pursue both or either land use and zoning in shaping development and conservation decisions. Regardless of a local government’s approach, however, the considerations around community engagement and equity are largely the same but may apply on different scales.
Regarding the environment, land-use and zoning designations can be used to promote nature-based solutions. For example, policymakers can establish zoning districts as recreational/open space for public parks and trails, or limit or restrict future development in vulnerable floodplains. Regarding housing, crafting zoning can be an effective way to increase the amount of affordable housing, and shield residents from displacement and development pressures.
Policymakers can use a plan to guide land-use and zoning updates. When this happens, the community engagement takeaways and priorities included in plans can help shape future development and land uses. Land-use and zoning decisions can help policymakers adaptively manage plan updates aligned with community needs and interests.
Land-use and zoning updates can also be proposed on their own outside of a plan. As with planning, land-use and zoning decisions are more successful when communities are engaged throughout both their development and implementation. Community engagement will allow policymakers to better understand the issues that residents are facing and how a legal or policy change may benefit or harm the community. Community engagement will also allow policymakers to be more strategic, inclusive, and thoughtful about the ways to minimize potential inequities.
For example, in 2016, the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park in the Cully neighborhood of Portland, Oregon was threatened with closure and sale to a residential developer that planned to evict all residents.See footnote 4 In response, Living Cully, a coalition of four community development organizations, sprung into action to protect the park and its residents and developed a campaign to change Portland’s comprehensive plan and zoning laws.See footnote 5 Living Cully organized direct interactions between manufactured home communities (MHC) residents and Portland political officials. Additionally, residents from the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park and other MHC around Portland gave testimony in front of the city’s Planning Commission to educate Planning Commissioners about these communities and personally combat negative stereotypes of MHC and their residents. 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. In 2018, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to adopt the proposed updates Living Cully supported to the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning code.See footnote 6
Portland demonstrates how necessary it is to work collaboratively with residents throughout the entirety of decisionmaking processes. Ultimately, residents will be the people most affected by land-use and zoning changes. Thus, policymakers must include residents to create locally appropriate and effective laws and policies.
Portland also illustrates the value of working with political officials and city staff to provide them with tangible opportunities to directly engage with residents. Here, these community-driven efforts worked to overcome the negative stigmas often associated with MHC to successfully pass inclusive and equitable zoning updates. This can be replicated more broadly beyond the specific context of MHC.
There are different kinds of projects around housing and nature-based resilience that can be designed and implemented in a community. This can include housing retrofits or repairs to the construction of new homes and subdivisions or parks and wetlands management. A project can receive funding and be implemented independent of or as a result of a law, plan, or policy.
Projects have various scales of impact. A project can affect only a few homes, a neighborhood, or an entire local or regional jurisdiction. Even though a particular project may not always be as comprehensive or large in scope compared to a plan, it is still important to engage with and educate residents especially when it comes to people’s homes and environments. For example, Rush River Commons is a proposed privately funded, mixed-use development project in the Town of Washington, Virginia. The proposed plan includes building a community center, office space for nonprofits, and affordable rental housing on a nine-acre property located in the town. The project also includes a plan for restoring the land’s natural wetlands and amenities. Though the project is a privately funded venture, the goal is to have a positive impact on the community. Thus, the team leading the project engaged with the public during the initial planning and design stages. For example, in addition to public meetings, they hosted a “listening tour” and met individually with community members. Over the course of a few months, the team interviewed almost half of the town’s population at the time. The team met with both those who supported and were not in favor of — or had questions about — the project. The team then incorporated the feedback they received into the project’s overall design. Although the scale of this project is relatively small and is privately funded, community engagement was still a critical part of the planning processes.
Credit: The Vision, Rush River Commons, https://rushrivercommons.com/ (last visited June 14, 2022).
Public Participation Laws and Policies
Strengthening and enhancing public participation laws and policies at the local level can increase opportunities for decisionmakers to meaningfully and equitably collaborate with a community in the development of plans, laws, policies, and projects that address affordable housing and natural resilience. As a foundation, the Louisiana Constitution states that “no person shall be denied the right to observe the deliberations of public bodies and examine public documents, except in cases established by law.”See footnote 7 While these types of decisionmaking processes vary by parish, municipality, and agency or department, “they all have opportunities for public comment.”See footnote 8 Building on the foundation in the state's Constitution, Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law “is meant to ensure that decisions by the government are made in an open forum” and “is designed to ensure state integrity and to increase the public’s trust and awareness of its governing officials.”See footnote 9 Specifically, the law requires that for “the maintenance of a democratic society” it is essential that “public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy . . . .”See footnote 10 Although a state law, Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law applies to public meetings held by regional and local governments.
Generally, these can be interpreted to require that public engagement be conducted before and during processes at the state, regional, and local levels. Given the increasing frequency and intensity of flooding and storm events and ongoing affordable housing challenges, more and different types of equitable community engagement, as elaborated in this objective, are needed to support resilience efforts. As such, parish and municipal governments can consider going further than the base set by the Louisiana Constitution and Open Meetings Law by developing and updating their public meeting laws, plans, and policies. Where legally feasible, this could involve institutionalizing public engagement practices in ways that better encourage and facilitate increased public participation for more and varied types of residents. Potential options include:
- Adopting a set of principles and minimum standards that can guide how local governments should conduct equitable, interactive, and meaningful public participation and outreach events (e.g., Five Guiding Principles, in Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning: A Framework);
- Incorporating public participation metrics as a part of post-engagement reviews of government actions to actively manage and adapt any policies and practices over time and/or in response to individual decisionmaking processes (e.g., to monitor and manage the implementation of relevant plans);
- Establishing, funding, and supporting positions for dedicated local public participation coordinators and/or or offices (e.g., Office of Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement) that will oversee and administer these laws, policies, and efforts (e.g., St. John the Baptist ParishSee footnote 11);
- Increasing funding and financing opportunities for projects that incorporate significant community engagement (e.g., Federal Emergency Management Agency Community Rating System); and
- Creating public tools, systems, or databases that allow for collaboration and transparent data sharing between government agencies and their stakeholdersSee footnote 12 (e.g., New York City Rezoning Commitments Tracker and Atlanta Housing Affordability Tracker).
The Community Engagement Guide (CEG) is another example of how localities can develop and use public participation models to promote community-centered resilience planning.See footnote 13 The CEG, developed by the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and Georgetown Climate Center (GCC), consolidates best practices for District agencies seeking opportunities to conduct community engagement with residents and stakeholders at the local or neighborhood level. It specifically draws on DOEE’s experience collaborating with residents to implement the District’s climate plans.
In 2017 and 2018, DOEE and GCC worked to establish a community-driven planning process in the far northeast neighborhoods of Ward 7 in Washington, D.C. (“Far Northeast Ward 7”) to inform the implementation of the District’s adaptation and mitigation plans, Climate Ready DC and Clean Energy DC, respectively. The neighborhoods of Far Northeast Ward 7 were chosen after the District’s climate vulnerability analysis showed that the communities surrounding the Watts Branch tributary of the Anacostia River (i.e., Far Northeast Ward 7) face disproportionately more flooding and other risks relative to other parts of the District.See footnote 14 The flood risks in Ward 7 are exacerbated by other socioeconomic factors, such as age, income, health, and food and housing security. Starting in 2017, GCC and DOEE convened an Equity Advisory Group (EAG), comprised of a cross-section of community leaders and residents of Far Northeast Ward 7, who were charged with developing recommendations to inform DOEE’s implementation of Climate Ready DC and Clean Energy DC.See footnote 15
The project team developed the CEG to create a model for other District agencies to apply similar engagement practices in future planning and other District initiatives. The recommendations focused on how District agencies could apply principles of procedural and substantive equity for a more inclusive approach to community engagement, such as framing expectations and partnering with a trusted community organization.See footnote 16
Although the CEG was developed through planning processes that took place at a local scale, the lessons learned can be scaled up to apply to broader planning processes across agencies at the regional and/or state level. While the CEG was not developed in the context of enhancing public participation laws, other local governments can consider using the CEG as a model for how to institutionalize and build on the minimum standards set by public participation laws to achieve more equitable public participation in decisionmaking processes.
Any of these ideas can take place by developing or amending relevant local regulations and/or policy guidance documents. Moreover, any potential actions should be developed in concert with and not separate from residents, especially for an overarching set of engagement principles and standards.
By creating and updating local public participation laws and policies, parishes and municipalities have the power to increase community engagement and make these opportunities more consistent across all types of decisionmaking processes.
Institutionalizing public participation can also happen on a regional scale. Regional entities can look to support local governments in developing regional frameworks with best practices and tips and additional technical assistance resources for community engagement and equity.
Crosscutting Considerations and Practice Tips
Decisionmakers may consider the following crosscutting considerations and practice tips that apply to plans, land-use and zoning changes, and projects:
Create space to learn from and honor people’s lived experiences
Develop informed and transparent processes
Develop community-specific engagement methods
Evaluate and adapt community engagement processes, as needed
Build local capacity
Design various types of interactive activities to facilitate increased and more meaningful engagement
Set a clear timeframe and achievable meeting goals
Allocate sufficient funds and resources to support community engagement processes
Provide support services and resources to facilitate increased participation
Continue engaging with and learning from community members, stakeholders, and policymakers after legal and planning processes end
Stay up-to-date on the issues
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. Many of these crosscutting considerations and practice tips are similar to and adapted from those listed in Georgetown Climate Center’s Managed Retreat Toolkit part on Community Engagement and Equity.
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.
- Create space to learn from and honor people's lived experiences: Housing and flood risk are very personal issues. BIPOC and low-income communities have historically and systemically been left out of conversations about where and how they want to live. Moreover, the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme storms will disproportionately affect overburdened and low-income people and communities who are already facing significant economic and social challenges. It is important for practitioners to understand the historical, local, and personal context of the places where they are engaging in this work.
By engaging stakeholders who typically have been underresourced, overlooked, and discounted in policymaking due to existing and historical barriers, planning can reflect the cultural values and preferences of the community while addressing everyday and long-term needs. However, to successfully engage with community members, decisionmakers need to create equitable engagement spaces to learn from and honor the experiences of a community, and have the responsibility to ensure that these spaces empower community members to share their perspectives. Policymakers should be ready to listen to, learn from, and honor community experience, rather than convince and persuade. Policymakers need to understand that it takes time to build true and authentic trust with a community and should also work towards maintaining trust over time. Engagement methods should include partnering with, and following the leadership of, reaching out to community-based and grassroots organizations that already have valuable hands-on experiences working and building trust with BIPOC and low-income communities.
Notably, these considerations apply to the other crosscutting considerations and practice tips of this objective. In addition, part of implementing this objective will also necessitate thinking about how to apply these shared lived experiences as a qualitative form of data to inform legal, planning, policy, and project updates for housing and nature-based solutions. Objective 5.2 and Objective 5.3 discuss this in more detail.
- Develop informed and transparent processes: To create effective housing and flood mitigation solutions, planners and policymakers must create meaningful and equitable opportunities for community engagement before, during, and after the implementation of a plan, laws, policies, and projects. Moreover, to build trust and authentic partnerships with communities, policymakers should have first-hand knowledge of the local context in the places in which they are working. Further, it is important to keep community engagement participants, affected residents, and stakeholders apprised of plan and project updates. Decisionmakers should aim to keep community members informed at appropriate junctures, even when plan, policy, or project updates may not be favorable. Planners and policymakers can use various mediums and types of materials to update people, like through newsletters and regular reports to legislative bodies (e.g., city council) (e.g., Quinault Indian Nation, Washington: Taholah Village Relocation Master Plan).
- Develop community-specific engagement methods: There is no standardized approach to engage with communities. To craft equitable solutions for a community, policymakers need to comprehensively understand needs and to co-design potential solutions with the community they are serving. Equitable engagement will vary based on a number of factors including but not limited to, how much time decisionmakers spend working with and learning from residents impacted by a given government initiative, a community’s demographics, culture, and history, and a community’s ability to access resources. It is important to work directly with community members, especially those who are leaders in BIPOC and low-income communities (e.g., through an advisory committee) to understand the unique characteristics of a community in order to determine the ways to most meaningfully interact with and learn from residents. For example, policymakers can partner with local organizations (e.g., Foundation for Louisiana and Center for Planning Excellence) to facilitate extensive community engagement processes during planning and implementation stages. Regional and local governments can also coordinate with local businesses, schools, and neighboring communities as a way to tailor objectives to the needs of the community and to benefit from shared knowledge and collaboration. For example, meeting with groups like local home builders and landscape architects will allow for a more comprehensive understanding about the cost of building materials and what types of engineering and nature-based interventions might be feasible on a property.
It is important to note that certain tools or methods may be effective in one community, but may not work for another. One factor that may influence the success of outreach strategies is a community’s access to resources, such as the internet, public transportation, ability to take off work, or find care for dependents. For example, the city of Denham Springs created a long-term recovery plan called Denham Strong to increase community resilience in the aftermath of a significant precipitation event called the Great Floods of 2016. As part of that planning process, the city created a website that provided information to the public about the status of the plan and posted feedback from community meetings. The plan was released in 2017; and despite its release, the city still maintains the website with plan and project updates. However, website updates may not be an effective medium to connect with residents that have limited or no internet access or speak English as a second language. In these instances, decisionmakers should determine other mediums or outlets to share information with people. This may include reaching out to faith community leaders, going door-to-door to share information with residents, or partnering with local community-based organizations and grassroots bodies that have established relationships and networks with residents regional and local governments are trying to reach. These types of updates and transparency may be one way to motivate members to support project implementation and help build and maintain trust between local officials and residents.
- Evaluate and adapt community engagement processes: Regional and local governments and communities should work together to design outreach and engagement processes with active evaluation steps and feedback loops to manage and adapt to them, as needed. This will be particularly important to assess and ensure that community members feel heard, community expectations are met, and procedural and substantive goals and objectives are achieved. Moreover, given the ongoing peer-learning among communities around housing and flood resilience within and outside of Region Seven, Louisiana, and nationally, evaluation processes and results can better inform and improve future efforts.
In addition, governments must be committed to achieving as much productive community engagement as possible. This means that planners and policymakers should be prepared to shift their community engagement tactics if certain efforts do not seem to be effective or accurately represent the entire community. For example, the City of Donaldsonville, Louisiana developed a strategic plan for 2020–2025, which identifies eight strategic priorities to revitalize the city by fostering business development and increasing the city’s standard of living. During the plan’s initial outreach and planning process, the City of Donaldsonville began holding community meetings in each of the city’s voting districts and disseminated surveys. However, little feedback was received from these efforts as they did not adequately establish trust between many residents and the city government. In addition, many residents did not fully understand what subjects were going to be discussed at these meetings and surveys. Recognizing these barriers to participation, the city switched engagement tactics, instead holding face-to-face community charrettes to workshop and analyze the plan’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. These charrettes were held in public and community-based locations, such as churches, public libraries, and government housing authorities — never in government-owned facilities — and were considerably more successful and constructive, drawing crowds of 25–30 residents at each meeting. Other jurisdictions can learn from Donaldsonville’s example.
- Build local capacity: To conduct a truly community-driven process, community members themselves must have the capacity to guide and participate in these conversations. Regional and local governments should consider sharing information with the public at the beginning of their decisionmaking processes to enable more people to actively participate in these discussions. Education and outreach efforts aimed at reaching the entire community will allow all residents to have a seat at the table and provide residents with the necessary resources to meaningfully engage with a proposed plan, land-use or zoning change, or a project. If decisionmakers share information early on in the process, residents are afforded the opportunity to contribute their thoughts, expertise, and lived experiences to help shape outcomes.
Decisionmakers should honor and lift up existing community knowledge and leadership and can provide the option of training local community leaders to facilitate and lead discussions on community adaptation issues within their own communities. Planners and policymakers can create training programs and offer stipends for community facilitators who are willing to dedicate time to enhance and build upon the existing skills needed to coordinate these discussions. For instance, to support Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE), the nonprofit Foundation for Louisiana trained local facilitators through its LEAD the Coast program.
There is also a critical need for public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships, which can help provide additional resources and expertise. Governments should work with community members and community-based organizations — especially in overburdened communities — to identify and provide them with tools and information (e.g., data, mapping, and metrics) that are prompting decisionmakers to take action and include the community as a partner in the process. The work to build local capacity and educate residents should be viewed as a sustained goal — and not a one-off project — so that people can actively participate in and contribute to legal and policymaking processes over the long term.
- Design various types of interactive activities to facilitate increased and more meaningful engagement: To encourage community participation, state and local governments should design various types of activities, such as small group meetings, brainstorming workshops, virtual meeting options, surveys, and questionnaires, that can help get people out of their comfort zone and build deeper relationships. Planners and policymakers should not confine themselves to rigid public hearing formats; instead, they should apply different approaches across the various stages of decisionmaking processes to achieve different objectives. Creative conservation projects can also foster enhanced community engagement opportunities. For example, the City of Gonzales, Louisiana created the Gonzales Comprehensive Plan in collaboration with Gonzales’s residents, city staff, various stakeholders, and Gonzales’s elected officials. The city’s public engagement included various tactics like hosting public meetings, one of which was a visioning workshop where attendees were asked to reflect on things they wanted for Gonzales by writing down their land-use and other goals on a physical map of the city. These ideas were fused together into the Vision Map appearing in the city’s final comprehensive plan.
- Set a clear timeframe and achievable meeting goals: Community engagement processes will involve working among several and diverse stakeholders over longer time periods (i.e., multiple months or years). Accordingly, it will be crucial for regional and local governments to design and execute efficient processes that set clear timeframes, goals, objectives, and expectations to bring community members along and honor their participation and contributions. Notably, decisionmakers and communities may disagree on these points, so there may be a need for upfront dialogue, iteration, and flexibility on both sides.
- Allocate sufficient funds and resources to support community engagement processes: Effective and sustained community engagement requires funding and staff support. Decisionmakers should develop these processes with sufficient resources in mind. To implement LA SAFE comprehensive community engagement and planning model, the State of Louisiana received $40 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the National Disaster Resilience Competition, in addition to other state and nongovernmental funds. These funds were supplemented through grants from the Foundation for Louisiana that provided direct financial support to community-based organizations for outreach and engagement, stipends to community-based facilitators, food at meetings, public outreach materials, and childcare, among other things. The Foundation for Louisiana dedicated money to the expenditure of funds that are not allowable through current federal rules, but are resources that can remove participation barriers in BIPOC and low-income communities. Other regional and local decisionmakers can consider partnerships with nonprofit or philanthropic entities to overcome barriers to federal funding that may prohibit this type of funding. In the absence of comparable funding opportunities, this level of funding and the scale of this model will be difficult to replicate in many jurisdictions; however, decisionmakers should seek opportunities to leverage public-private-nonprofit-community and regional partnerships and other federal and external sources of funding and in-kind support (e.g., volunteer time, meeting facilities, food) to fulfill priority community engagement needs.
- Provide support services and resources to facilitate increased participation: Regional and local governments and outside government partners should budget for and find ways to provide necessary support services and resources so that residents can participate in meetings and feel valued for their time spent. Examples of support services and resources include: providing childcare, translating meeting materials in different languages, and making these materials available via multiple in-person and online platforms. For example, in some cases, residents cannot leave their children at home to join community meetings; therefore, offering childcare can be essential to enable diverse perspectives and inclusive attendance and participation. Through philanthropic funds from Foundation for Louisiana, LA SAFE organizers provided childcare so that more residents could join meetings. Decisionmakers should also provide translated materials for non-English speaking residents, as the LA SAFE organizers did for Vietnamese and Cambodian residents. Other types of support services can include providing meals and stipends for meeting participants.
- Continue engaging with and learning from community members, stakeholders, and policymakers after legal and planning processes end: Once community engagement processes are conducted and goals are achieved (e.g., the law, policy, plan, or project is implemented), practitioners should create long-term processes to continue engaging with and learning from community members and stakeholders. These should not be viewed as “one and done” but rather iterative processes to address long-term issues that are challenging and evolving.
- Stay up-to-date on the issues: Practitioners should stay up-to-date on the latest in terms of housing, flooding, and population changes through educational opportunities and also consistently engaging with stakeholders, such as residents, community-based organizations, nongovernmental entities, and universities, through different media (e.g., council or civic meetings) and one-on-one interactions. Decisionmakers can consider strategies to work with nongovernmental organizations, residents, and other experts and peer parish and municipal jurisdictions to keep apprised of people’s ongoing needs and priorities and share information with colleagues and elected officials on these important issues.
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.
Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE) Adaptation Strategies
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Donaldsonville, Louisiana: Donaldsonville Strategic Plan 2020–2025
Louisiana is the most flood-prone coastal state in the U.S. and is also experiencing the fastest rate of land loss. Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE) is a community-based planning and capital investment process that will help the state fund and implement several projects to make its coasts more resilient. In 2016, Louisiana’s Office for Community Development–Disaster Recovery Unit received a nearly $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the National Disaster Resilience Competition and additional state and nongovernmental funds to implement LA SAFE. The state partnered with the nonprofit Foundation for Louisiana to administer LA SAFE and facilitate an extensive, year-long community engagement process that will result in implementation of ten funded projects across the six parishes. Through LA SAFE, Foundation for Louisiana developed thoughtful and inclusive community engagement processes (e.g., they provided direct financial support to community-based organizations for outreach and engagement, stipends to community-based facilitators, food at meetings, public outreach materials, and childcare, among other things). The organization also trained local facilitators to lead meetings through its separate, but related LEAD the Coast program. This LA SAFE process can serve as an example of a public-nonprofit-community partnership other regional and local governments can consider to build capacity and engage residents in resilience planning and project decisions.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Gonzales, Louisiana: Gonzales Comprehensive Plan
The City of Donaldsonville, Louisiana has developed a strategic plan for 2020–2025, which identifies eight strategic priorities to revitalize the city by fostering business development and increasing the city’s standard of living. The city initiated community engagement processes that did not achieve the intended levels of outreach or outcomes. As such, the city revised its process by holding face-to-face community charrettes to workshop and analyze the plan’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. These charrettes were held in public and community-based locations and were considerably more successful and constructive, drawing crowds of 25–30 residents at each meeting. Even despite the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, the city has continued working with the community and community review and feedback sessions are now being conducted through community presentations, town halls, partner stakeholder meetings, and media promotion to solicit further input from community members, leaders, and collaborative partners to develop strategies for plan implementation and to evaluate outcomes. In addition, the city is identifying and coordinating with community ambassadors and strategic priority-specific stakeholder groups composed of governmental organizations and outside partners — such as the school board, the fire department, and local organizations — to develop implementation plans and track progress. The city frequently delivers updates about the status of the plan online and at city council meetings. This plan is a good example of how local governments can change community engagement tactics in response to little or negative feedback from residents to produce more community-driven and meaningful outcomes.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Portland, Oregon: Planning and Zoning for Manufactured Housing Communities
The City of Gonzales, Louisiana updated its local comprehensive plan to accommodate rapid growth. To update the plan, the city started by assembling a stakeholder committee composed of 19 Gonzales residents. The committee met monthly and reviewed drafts of the plan and provided opinions and feedback. In addition to the committee, the plan’s Center for Planning Excellence consultant team met with a diverse group of stakeholders, including Gonzales City staff, elected officials, school board members, and real estate and development professionals. Beyond individual interviews, the consultant team also publicized and hosted three separate public meetings. The three meetings included a visioning workshop, a downtown workshop, and an open house. The consultant team used outreach methods that they believed would get the highest amount of public participation for each of these meetings. The Gonzales plan addresses community needs comprehensively and grounded them in community feedback and needs through the community engagement process and guiding principles.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Baton Rouge–Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Imagine Plank Road Plan for Equitable Development
In 2016, the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park in the Cully neighborhood of Portland, Oregon was threatened with closure and sale to a residential developer that planned to evict all residents. Living Cully, a coalition of four community development organizations, sprung into action to protect the park and its residents, developing a campaign to change Portland’s comprehensive plan and zoning laws. Living Cully organized direct interactions between manufactured home communities (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 to educate Planning Commissioners about these communities and personally combat negative stereotypes of MHC and their residents. 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. In 2018, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to adopt the proposed updates Living Cully supported to the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning code. As this example demonstrates, it is necessary to work collaboratively with MHC residents throughout the entirety of decisionmaking processes. In addition, this example of policymaking to preserve MHC illustrates the value of working with political officials and city staff to provide them with tangible opportunities to directly engage with MHC residents.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Baton Rouge–Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Ardendale Master Plan and Guiding Principles
The Imagine Plank Road: Plan for Equitable Development is an equitable transit-oriented development plan developed to guide revitalization of the Plank Road corridor, an area in north Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish. Build Baton Rouge (BBR) is the lead agency on the plan and emphasized community engagement and public-private partnerships in planning and implementation. To collect input from residents and local businesses about their needs and vision for the corridor, BBR deployed initiatives including a visioning survey, a community roundtable, mailings, and interactive programming, including an event featuring local food vendors and a street festival. BBR also assembled a steering committee of nonprofit and public agency partners, ultimately meeting with dozens of corridor stakeholders across numerous sectors throughout the planning process. Leveraging the area’s social and cultural networks, BBR employed a team of community members who live and work in the corridor as “community ambassadors” to publicize opportunities for public input. According to BBR, existing individual and institutional networks fostered by churches, nonprofits, and commercial enterprises are “perhaps the greatest opportunity available to BBR to achieve sustained impact in the Corridor.” Engagement with current residents of existing communities is a part of comprehensive climate adaptation plans and processes, and like BBR, local policymakers should invest meaningful resources toward soliciting community members’ priorities, needs, and visions for their neighborhood.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Denham Springs, Louisiana: Denham Strong Long-Term Community Recovery Plan
The Ardendale Master Plan and Guiding Principles is a planned community development in the Ardenwood area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Ardendale consists of 200 acres purchased in 2012 by Build Baton Rouge, the city’s redevelopment agency. As proposed under the plan, Ardendale will become a new urbanist community that will include the following types of planned projects: mixed-income affordable housing, infrastructure, quality-of-life amenities, and cohesive landscaping. Specifically, the new vision for Ardendale is to build amenities like housing, businesses, and green space and integrate public access across various community resources to grow socioeconomic resilience. After receiving a planning grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2014, city and parish agencies met with numerous community organizations to create the development proposal that ultimately won a $29.5-million grant in 2019. These stakeholders included organizations representing youth programs, health and wellness, arts and culture, education, and the workforce. To determine goals for the community members of Ardenwood and surrounding neighborhoods, agency partners deployed surveys, focus groups, and listening sessions with local residents, businesses, and nonprofits. The Ardendale plan shows how urban design and revitalization initiatives can be informed by both the individual and social needs of a community.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — Miami-Dade County, Florida: Little River Adaptation Action Area Plan
The city of Denham Springs is located in Livingston Parish in Louisiana. In August 2016, a historic flooding event severely impacted the infrastructure and people in the city of Denham Springs in Louisiana. In response to the flooding, the city worked with its residents to create a long-term recovery plan called Denham Strong. The plan was developed with community “input on flood recovery issues, a vision for the future and projects to increase the resilience of the city.” There were three community meetings, 84 subcommittee and steering committee meetings, meetings with various stakeholders, and media outreach. The Denham Strong website provided information to the public about the planning process and feedback from community meetings was posted to the website. Now, the Denham Strong website posts plan updates and the status of projects. The success of some Denham Strong projects may rely on volunteers, so updates and transparency may be one way to motivate residents to support project implementation. The process used to develop Denham Strong is illustrative of significant community engagement.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of North Miami, Florida: Good Neighbor Stormwater Park and Repetitive Loss Master Plan
Miami-Dade County is located in the southeastern most part of Florida. The Little River Adaptation Action Area (AAA) plan was released in January 2022 as part of the process to implement the Miami-Dade County Sea Level Rise Strategy. Adaptation Action Areas are locations that are especially prone to climate impacts like coastal flooding so that they can be prioritized for funding and planning purposes. The plan was informed by one-on-one conversations with various community-based organizations, partners in academia, people within county and municipal departments, and individual residents living within the Little River community. The county and its partners hosted online community forums dedicated to hear directly from residents, and webinars focused on educating the community about climate change, water quality, housing and equity, and more. Responses from residents are articulated in the AAA plan. Other outreach methods included door-hangers, hosting a King Tide Day event, in-person and virtual flyers, direct letters to those living in unincorporated areas, and more. Overall, the county’s community engagement methods included intersecting elements such as sea-level rise, housing, and parks and green space. AAA is useful to other local governments looking to create community-driven, neighborhood-level plans for resilience that cut across different sectors.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Norfolk, Virginia: PlaNorfolk 2030, Norfolk Vision 2100, and Resilience Zoning Updates
The City of North Miami, Florida Good Neighbor Stormwater Park is a public open space with the capacity for local flood prevention, doubling as a stormwater reservoir. A repurposed vacant lot within North Miami’s residential neighborhood of Sunny Acres, this adaptive stormwater green infrastructure is vegetated with an array of native trees and plants, while also acting as a communal space with walking paths and artistic structures that educate the public on flooding hazards. The Stormwater Park lot is primarily in a Haitian and Hispanic neighborhood and the city tried to overcome barriers to engagement by including representative community members. A local project partner spent months meeting with and hearing from hundreds of North Miami residents through events and surveys in different languages, to understand their needs for this new community space. The landscape architecture firm, Dept., prioritized educating the community about flood risk and green infrastructure through design. Dept. collaborated with Miami-based artist Adler Guerrier for an art installation inside the retention pond that uses physical markers that rise above the water to indicate the natural fluctuations of the water table in the neighborhood. The Good Neighbor Stormwater Park project exemplifies climate-resilient landscape architecture or green infrastructure, made successful through diverse public-private partnerships adopting equitable community engagement and support, and long-term planning.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of New Orleans, Louisiana: Resilient Housing Prototype in the Seventh Ward
Facing new challenges of increased flooding and sea-level rise due to climate change, the coastal city of Norfolk, Virginia has developed a host of planning and zoning initiatives that are informed by these new risks and designed to increase the city’s resilience against them. This includes Norfolk Vision 2100, a longer-term visioning document for long-range resilience planning adopted as an addendum to the general comprehensive plan. During the process to develop Vision 2100, city planners engaged in extensive consultation with residents and other stakeholders in a three-phase process: awareness, asset mapping, and vision development. Over the two-year period to create the Green Infrastructure Plan, Norfolk held ten public community meetings, consulted across various city departments, and met with local environmental and academic organizations. These conversations revealed stakeholder desires and suggestions for additional access to green space and water recreation, historic and cultural sites for Black history, water infiltration to reduce high tide flooding, greater shade for streets and bus stops, and naturalizing landscapes to mitigate runoff. The city also gathered input from workshops on related initiatives. Other jurisdictions seeking to replicate Norfolk’s community engagement efforts may consider emphasizing the ways in which resilience can help redress the problems that community members have encountered tangibly in their lived experiences. Engagement with the developer community was also critical to achieving broad political support.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — Town of Washington, Virginia: Rush River Commons Mixed-Use Development
In the Seventh Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana, a local project team led by J.B. Holton and Associates and Healthy Community Services 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 specifically dedicated for low- to moderate-income community members. 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 site will also be landscaped with green stormwater infrastructure features. 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. Currently, the team is preparing educational materials to share with the community about this project so they can observe a more resilient way to build homes. Regional and local policymakers can make professional commitments to learn about sustainable building materials and the implementation of pilot projects like this one. As such, policymakers can serve as an important government resource and bridge to the development community to encourage the uptake of these ideas in their jurisdictions.
Rush River Commons is a proposed mixed-use development project for the Town of Washington, Virginia, a small rural town that sits in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The proposed plan includes building a community center, office space for nonprofits, and affordable rental housing on a nine-acre property located in the town. The project also includes a plan for restoring the land’s natural wetlands and amenities. Though the project is a privately funded venture, the goal is to have a profound and positive impact on the community. Thus, the team leading the project engaged with the public during the initial planning and design stages. For example, they hosted a “listening tour” and met individually with community members. The team interviewed almost half of the town’s population at the time and met with both those who supported and were not in favor of — or had questions about —the project. The team then incorporated the feedback they received into the project’s overall design. Additionally, as of January 2022, the team had about nine public meetings with the Washington Town Council, Washington Planning Commission, and the Washington Architectural Review Board and will likely have more public meetings as the project progresses. The Rush River Commons project serves as an example of how mixed-use development can occur in rural areas. A project like Rush River Commons can also help planners and policymakers demonstrate the benefits of affordable housing to dismantle negative stereotypes.