Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision

Objective 5.5:

Evaluate new regional capacity-building and partnership opportunities between government and nongovernmental stakeholders and community members to share and leverage learned expertise, lived experiences, and financial resources.

The Need

Regional capacity-building and partnership opportunities between government and nongovernmental and private stakeholders and community members are an important part of creating long-lasting housing and flood risk solutions in communities. Currently, more partnerships are needed. The exact makeup of a given partnership effort will vary. However, in general, each actor can bring something unique and important to the table in developing and implementing laws, plans, policies, and projects. Additionally, many local governments face funding and capacity constraints. 

Where effectively constructed and administered, public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships will ideally make the administration of a plan or project more interdisciplinary and collaborative, which can strengthen resilience efforts overall. For example, if local governments are considering affordable housing changes, they will likely need voices from a multitude of sectors. This may include expertise from: 

  • Landscape architects that have a more comprehensive understanding of what types of nature-based interventions might be feasible on a property; 
  • Home builders that understand the cost of building materials; 
  • Government decisionmakers that have the authority to create and update existing plans and ordinances;  
  • Community members, especially those who would be living in the housing, to get local perspectives; and 
  • Nongovernmental organizations with specialized expertise and local knowledge. 

In addition, different groups, like policymakers and those outside government, may perceive the same information or issue in a community differently due to different expertise, experiences, and access to resources. Therefore, having a multitude of perspectives is a vital part of creating holistic solutions for communities. 

In addition to facilitating the development of more comprehensive and equitable resilience solutions, public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships can create opportunities for leveraging funding and other resources to implement solutions. These partnerships can be a more effective way to address these issues in comparison to jurisdictions addressing them alone. This objective focuses on collaboration beyond government structures alone, which includes public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships. Note that Objective 5.4 emphasizes the need for regional government structures. 

How to Make Progress on This Objective

This part identifies three nonexhaustive types of actions where public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships will be critical to “greauxing” or growing resilience through housing and nature-based solutions: 

  • Planning
  • Land use and zoning; and 
  • Projects 

Partnerships can be iterative throughout one, some, or all of these categories. 


Plans can set a comprehensive framework that guides how laws, policies, and projects are implemented. Partnerships build capacity to inform the development of a plan and the ability for successful implementation of a plan. 

When developing a plan, it is important for governments to engage with private organizations, nonprofit organizations, and community members early on in a planning process. Early engagement will allow public entities to have a holistic perspective of the issues around housing and flooding before crafting solutions. Local organizations have specialized knowledge about issues the community faces and oftentimes have a trusted relationship with community members to encourage them to be a part of planning processes. For example, home developers can contribute unique expertise to inform the development of housing-specific plans or the housing element of local comprehensive plans about subjects like the cost of constructing diverse missing middle affordable housing options. Thus, utilizing their expertise and understanding the work they have already done in the early stages of crafting a plan will allow for the creation of better solutions. For example, in 2019, the City of Atlanta, Georgia released its One Atlanta Affordable Housing Action Plan, which is a strategic document that includes quantitative goals and policy and program proposals related to building and preserving affordable housing across the city. Nonprofit and business stakeholders engaged in significant leadership in the plan’s initiation and development. After Atlanta’s mayor pledged to invest $1 billion into affordable housing in 2017, the announcement mobilized housing stakeholders to create a coalition called HouseATL, including members in nonprofit organizations, education, financial institutions, government agencies, and developers. HouseATL worked to create 22 recommendations that ultimately informed the city’s affordable housing plan, which was released a year and a half later.  

If nongovernmental entities are part of the process early on, the recommendations or solutions they may already have can be used to inform the development of plans and cultivate more efficient decisionmaking processes that are also representative of the needs of the community. These partnerships should be used as an opportunity for co-developing plans with nongovernmental entities and communities rather than planners proposing ideas and trying to get nongovernmental entity and community buy-in retroactively. Effective partnership building takes effort and is time consuming, but it is an important step to crafting solutions in a plan that actually solves a community’s unique issues. Refer to Objective 5.1 for more points on how to equitably engage with communities. 

Additionally, these types of partnerships can support the creation of plans that encompass varied areas of interest. As discussed in Objectives 5.2 and 5.3, more work needs to be done across the board to elevate interdisciplinary and cross-jurisdictional thinking. To build equitable and meaningful resilience, flood mitigation and watershed management should be viewed as interdependent concepts that influence and are impacted by future housing and development patterns and environmental protection in the context of population shifts and transitions. Public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships can allow for this type of interdisciplinary planning.  

When implementing, monitoring, and tracking a plan, public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships can increase government accountability. For example, in Austin, Texas, their housing plan and comprehensive plan set forth a vision of the city embodied by sustainability, social equity, and economic opportunity as it prepares for continued growth. Austin is publicly tracking progress on their affordable housing goals. Austin’s Housing and Planning Department partnered with the nonprofit HousingWorks Austin to create an annual Blueprint Scorecard that captures information on how many new units are built, how affordable they are, and where they are located. The most recent scorecard from 2020 shows that the city is short of meeting its annual housing benchmarks, but nevertheless continuing to make progress on ambitious objectives. As illustrated in Austin, partnering with a nonprofit builds the local government’s capacity to create and maintain the scorecard. It also allows for more transparency and accountability to stakeholders and the broader public since the public sector is working in tandem with a local advocacy organization.

Land Use and Zoning

Creating and updating local land-use and zoning ordinances can 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. 

Regarding the environment, certain land-use designations can be used to promote nature-based solutions. For example, policymakers can designate certain areas as recreational/open space for public parks and trails, or limit or restrict future development in vulnerable floodplains. Regarding housing, zoning can be an effective way to increase the development 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 takeaways and priorities included in plans can help guide 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 and without coordinating with other planning decisions. As with planning, land-use and zoning decisions are more successful when they are developed in partnership with nongovernmental entities and communities. These partnerships can build capacity and allow policymakers to better understand the issues that residents are facing and how a legal or policy change may benefit or harm the community. For example, federal agencies and nonprofits may have capacity and data on an appropriate scale that governments can use to inform land-use and zoning decisions. Furthermore, community residents — particularly those who have lived in an area for a long time or have historical or cultural ties — can provide additional types of data or information based on historical or lived experiences that, among other things, can help governments better understand cyclical or long-term changes to inform land-use and zoning discussions. Partnerships will also allow policymakers to be more strategic, inclusive, and thoughtful about the ways to minimize potential inequities. 

To illustrate, the coastal city of Norfolk, Virginia adopted a new zoning ordinance in 2018 to enhance citywide flood resilience and direct new and more intense development to higher ground.See footnote 1 The ordinance include several key zoning requirements that ensure greater resilience including adding a new Resilience Quotient System, where developers accrue points for adopting different resilience measures related to stormwater management, risk reduction, energy efficiency, water quality and conservation, urban greenery, and healthy lifestyles.See footnote 2 Norfolk is committed to an ongoing evaluation process to assess the performance and usability of the Resilience Quotient System. As of 2021, the city is partnering with a Virginia-based conservation nonprofit, Wetlands Watch, and other stakeholders to assess the potential for updates to its Resilience Quotient System and new ideas.See footnote 3 


There are different kinds of projects around housing and nature-based resilience that can be designed and implemented in a community. For example, this can include housing retrofits or repairs to the construction of new homes or subdivisions or parks and wetlands management. A project can receive funding and be implemented on its own. A project can also be implemented by the force of a plan or certain land-use and zoning laws and policies, as discussed in the two previous parts. In other words, a project may be identified in a plan or outside of a plan. Projects also 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 form broad-based coalitions and partnerships to set up and facilitate the successful implementation of the project. Similar to the entry points and benefits of forming public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships, developing and implementing housing and nature-based projects should be led by teams representing affected interest groups and necessary expertise. 

For example, 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. This project illustrates the synergistic roles diverse government, philanthropic, private, and community participants played in implementing this project. A philanthropy, Van Alen Institute, provided funding. A landscape architecture design firm, Dept., designed the park and put together a plan that could support the replication of this pilot project across the region in the most flood vulnerable communities. 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 and a local project partner, the Urban Impact Lab, spent months meeting with and hearing from hundreds of North Miami residents to understand their needs for this new community space. Another project partner and collaboration included working with the Miami-based artist Adler Guerrier for an art installation inside the retention pond. 


Credit: Debbie Love, City Planner, City of North Miami, Florida.

The Good Neighbor Stormwater Park project exemplifies resilient landscape architecture or green infrastructure, made successful through diverse public-private partnerships adopting equitable community engagement and support. The project team’s effort to receive community feedback is one example of how to utilize public-private partnerships for projects. In addition to community engagement, the public-private partnership with landscape architects resulted in a resilient design that may be institutionalized. 

Crosscutting Considerations and Practice Tips

To encourage, facilitate, and deepen the establishment of new and existing public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships, decisionmakers may consider the following crosscutting considerations and practice tips that apply to plans, land-use and zoning changes, and projects:

  • Create spaces to learn from and honor people’s lived experiences
  • Develop comprehensive and inclusive public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships
  • Partner with community-based and grassroots organizations
  • Engage with multiple sectors and interested stakeholders to learn from holistic perspectives
  • Leverage funding and resources across diverse partners
  • Dedicate resources, staff time, and resources to establishing, building, maintaining, and growing partnerships and networks
  • Continue engaging with and learning from partners 

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. 

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 spaces to learn from and honor people’s lived experiences: Housing and flood risk are very personal issues. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and low-income communities have traditionally 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 overlooked and discounted in policymaking due to existing procedural barriers, plans, land use and zoning decisions, and projects can reflect the cultural values and preferences of the community. However, to successfully build partnerships with community members, decisionmakers need to create spaces to learn from the community and have the responsibility to ensure that these spaces are equitable and where community members feel empowered and comfortable sharing their perspectives. Policymakers should be ready to listen and learn from — rather than convince or persuade — community partners. Policymakers need to understand that it takes time to build true and authentic trust with a community and should also work towards maintaining that trust over time. 

    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 comprehensive and inclusive public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships: In addition to creating spaces to learn from community members, decisionmakers should work across silos and with relevant government agencies and at different scales (regional and local) from departments and agencies including planning, land use and zoning, housing, parks and recreation, hazard mitigation, and community development. Partnership leads should also seek to cast a wide net to build broad and inclusive teams relevant to their goals and objectives. This can include everything from private industries to universities to landscape architects to data experts. The benefits or purpose of this are that each person or entity plays a different, but critical, role for housing and flooding issues. To make progress on goals and objectives, it is important to form broad-based coalitions and partnerships to set up and facilitate the successful implementation of housing and flooding solutions. 
  • Partner with community-based and grassroots organizations: Community-based and grassroots organizations have valuable hands-on experiences working and building trust with their communities. Governments should evaluate opportunities for partnering with these entities. Partnerships can be structured to let community-based or grassroots organizations take the lead. Alternatively, state and local governments can invite nongovernmental entities to participate in community engagement processes and have opportunities to share their input and expertise. Governments can also provide the option of having or training local community leaders to facilitate and lead discussions on community issues and solutions.

    Regional and local governments can also build various types of partnerships to offset some of the administrative, economic, and social costs of decisionmaking processes. For example, partnerships with universities or nonprofits could be used to collect localized data, engage communities in planning discussions and determine how plans can best support local needs to minimize social costs, and evaluate how projects identified in plans can be implemented on the ground. Nonprofit organizations can also help bring relevant private sector investors, developers, and economic development officials to the decisionmaking table as well.
  • Engage with multiple sectors and interested stakeholders to learn from holistic perspectives: Engaging with multiple groups will allow decisionmakers to create holistic solutions that encompass diverse perspectives and uniquely address issues facing a community. It is important to have an interdisciplinary understanding of the issues a community faces, including the scientific, economic, environmental, and social aspects. Creating and expanding public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships can help decisionmakers navigate and/or negotiate beneficial outcomes when stakeholder input differs. Providing opportunities for knowledge sharing and gaining these perspectives could alter and change the way solutions are crafted; therefore, it is important to engage in these conversations early and often throughout decisionmaking processes. Moreover, nonprofits, local organizations, and/or existing coalition bases may already have information to share with regional and local governments that can inform the development of plans, land-use and zoning decisions, and projects. 

    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 developed a campaign to change Portland’s comprehensive plan and zoning laws.See footnote 5 Living Cully organized residents from the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park and other MHC around Portland to give 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, in addition inviting city staff and officials to visit Portland’s MHC and interact with the residents one-on-one. 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 Living Cully’s presence in the decisionmaking process for crafting the zoning ordinance and their community-driven efforts worked to overcome the negative stigmas often associated with MHC to successfully pass inclusive and equitable legal updates. The community’s perspective may differ from the public sector’s perspective, and the sharing of perspective may have a profound impact on the final result. Without Living Cully’s work to provide political officials and city staff opportunities to directly engage with MHC residents, the testimonies of residents, and the city official’s willingness to listen, an appropriate zoning ordinance may have not passed that truly supported the residents. 
  • Leverage funding and resources across diverse partners: Partnerships between governments, and private and nongovernmental stakeholders can increase the amount of funding, in-kind, and staffing resources available to support decisionmaking processes. At a minimum, this can help to distribute and minimize the financial costs and remove some of the participation barriers for each actor or entity. 

    Regarding increasing funding possibilities, different types of entities will be apply to apply for and bring various types of funding to the table. For example, public entities may secure desired results through private sector partnerships that meet public needs while providing financial benefits to the private sector entity. Or, partnerships can support applying for public funding that will better the community.

    These types of partnerships can also help implement projects, bring more expertise to the table, or make plans and projects more comprehensive. To illustrate, Austin, Texas is publicly tracking progress on the city’s affordable housing goals. Austin’s Housing and Planning Department partnered with the nonprofit HousingWorks Austin to create an annual Blueprint Scorecard that captures information on how many new units are built, how affordable they are, and where they are located.See footnote 7 The most recent scorecard from 2020 shows that the city is short of meeting its annual housing benchmarks, but nevertheless continuing to make progress on ambitious objectives.See footnote 8 In Austin, partnering with a nonprofit builds the local government’s capacity to create and maintain the scorecard. It also allows for more transparency and accountability to stakeholders and the broader public since the public sector is working in tandem with a local advocacy organization. 
  • Dedicate resources, staff time, and resources to establishing, building, maintaining, and growing partnerships and networks: Decisionmakers should provide staff with the ability to meaningfully engage with nongovernmental and private entities and community members. It takes time and effort to build and maintain trust and partnerships. Regional and local policymakers should dedicate sufficient resources to contribute to these efforts to make them more successful. Government leads or supervisors can contribute a range of resources and support including designating a specific team of individuals with the responsibility of building long-term partnerships and consistently meeting with entities, or providing funding and the ability to host regular (e.g., monthly or bi-monthly) virtual or in-person meetings with nongovernmental entities. Concurrently, government leadership can ensure ongoing and consistent participation from staff and the dedication of these resources. There may also be a need to grow these efforts over time, which will require additional support and investments.
  • Continue engaging with and learning from partners: Once partnership goals are achieved (e.g., a law, policy, plan, or project is implemented), practitioners should continue to engage with partners over the long term, where appropriate. It can be beneficial and productive for practitioners and community members to maintain partnerships and engagement channels to continue learning from one another, especially on ongoing and evolving issues like housing, flooding, resilience, and population changes. Ideally, practitioners should stay up-to-date on the latest in terms of housing and flooding issues by learning from partners and stakeholders impacted by and working to increase regional and local resilience. This can help parishes and municipalities and other nongovernmental and private entities take actions like updating and adaptively managing existing plans and ordinances, in addition to initiating new efforts responsive to ongoing needs, challenges, and community and stakeholder priorities. 

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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