Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision

Resilience, Affordable Housing, and Equity for the Regional Vision

In designing laws, plans, and policies that will work for all, language matters. At the outset of this process, the PROWL Work Group and other collaborators spent a significant amount of time on describing what is meant by the terms resilience, affordable housing, and equity in order to have a shared meaning and understanding throughout the Regional Vision

By providing a shared meaning and understanding for these foundational terms, the goal is to encourage governments and communities in Region Seven to look at their own laws, plans, policies, and definitions as they evaluate proposals and select possible courses of action. For concepts as important and multifaceted as resilience, affordable housing, and equity, it is especially key to have a shared idea about what regional and local governments and communities are aiming for. Ultimately, these three terms can help to determine the outcome or “vision” parishes and municipalities are working towards. Because the circumstances, priorities, and context in every community are different, each jurisdiction should work directly with residents to tailor these and other definitions to fit their own needs. The elaborations below are intended to provide a common starting point to inform ongoing work and discussions in Region Seven. 

The descriptions for resilience, affordable housing, and equity are included below in that order.


Resilience in southeast Louisiana means many things to many people. One particular definition is, “the capacity of individuals, communities, and systems to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”See footnote 1  

These concepts and ideas apply to everyone. However, it is important to recognize that people are not equally positioned to “survive, adapt, and grow” in response to the “chronic stresses and acute shocks" they experience.See footnote 2 As such, a holistic understanding of resilience also incorporates the understanding that historically underresourced and overburdened communities are forced to be more resilient compared to communities that may be able to easily access, and afford, interventions that may serve to mitigate, and adapt, to chronic and acute stressors. Filmmaker Zandashé Brown, a self-proclaimed daughter of southern Louisiana, explains this dynamic perfectly by saying:

I dream of never being called resilient again in my life. I’m exhausted by strength. I want support. I want softness. I want ease. I want to be amongst kin. Not patted on the back for how well I take a hit. Or for how many. Instead of hearing, “You are one of the most resilient people I know,” I want to hear, “You are so loved. You are so cared for. You are genuinely covered.”

Acknowledging the lead of a local culture bearer, any discussion about resilience must be grounded in a locally contextualized approach that recognizes the current and historical barriers, especially for Black, Brown, and low-income working class individuals and families, and myriad factors that are related to understanding resilience. For example, resilience must be viewed on a spectrum. Everyone is starting from a different baseline and has different needs. Moreover, resilience needs to be addressed on various levels from the individual or a family to a neighborhood or community to an entire region or state, however these spatial areas may be defined. In Louisiana especially, resilience can evoke powerful thoughts and memories about everything from post-disaster experiences to day-to-day challenges that can result in both short- and long-term impacts on a person’s psychological, social, and financial well being, as well as environmental protection and conservation. 

Accordingly, this definition of resilience will not be bound to a single sentence. Instead, it will incorporate the current and historical disparate expectations of resilience among communities and the environment, while drawing from the love that is deserved by all to develop laws, plans, and policies that are responsive — instead of barriers — to meeting everyone’s needs, while creating structures for accountability that are enacted by those same communities. 

Going forward, the hope is that everyone in southeast Louisiana and beyond can have a common baseline understanding of resilience and view it as a positive goal that people want to achieve individually and collectively in lieu of viewing resilience as a past or ongoing legacy they want to shed or leave behind. Meaningful resilience goes beyond one disaster event to capture both who people are, who they want to be, and where they want to go.

Affordable Housing

The concept of affordable housing implies housing that everyone can afford and that is located in a safe area and in a sanitary condition and meets an individual’s or family’s immediate and long-term needs including for social connection, jobs, schools, transportation, and community amenities and services. Historically, affordable housing has been defined more narrowly as “a measure of how much of one’s income one spends on housing (be it rental or mortgage payments), [where h]ousing is considered unaffordable if it costs more than 30 [percent of a] resident’s income.”See footnote 3 The concept of being able to afford a home, however, is much broader than the percentage of income a person spends on rental or mortgage payments. Instead, rental and mortgage payments are only one expense renters and homeowners face when renting or purchasing a home. These payments alone do not represent a person’s or family’s total housing costs. For example, renters and homeowners alike have to deal with utility payments, insurance, and state and local taxes that can increase and distort the percentage of their income that is spent on housing-related needs. 

A more comprehensive approach to housing offers advantages especially in the face of environmental changes and population growth and transitions. The above factors — and more — related to total housing costs can be taken into consideration to enable meaningful progress to achieve affordability across places facing different levels of flood risk. 

Whether people choose to stay-in-place or are able to and want to move to areas with lower flood risk, a resilient housing strategy can facilitate greater housing mobility. Housing mobility is the idea that people will have the choice and option to relocate to different neighborhoods that provide better or safer opportunities or safely stay in their existing homes, even as their communities change.See footnote 4 

Everyone is situated differently and faces different barriers to housing and access to resources. Furthermore, beyond the question of housing affordability, there are many other factors that, taken together, affect housing mobility outside the scope of this Regional Vision including: clear title and land succession issues on multi-generational and heirs properties; and barriers that prevent people from having equal access to different housing opportunities.See footnote 5  While there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to increasing housing affordability, the goal of the Regional Vision is to focus on and support ongoing discussions around affordability specifically by taking into account factors beyond the traditional definition of affordable housing. As such, the terms “affordable housing” and “affordability” will be used interchangeably throughout the Regional Vision to evoke these broader goals of housing and resiliency for all


There are many ways equity can be defined based on local context, history, culture, and needs. This Regional Vision does not attempt to lay out a comprehensive or place-specific definition of equity. In general, equity can be thought of as an approach based in fairness designed to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities and resources. To be truly resilient, communities must have the resources to prepare for the changes that are already being experienced on the ground and increase community capacity to withstand impacts and recover quickly after extreme weather events that are happening with a greater frequency and intensity. In practice, this means building equity into resilience planning and implementation, addressing the disproportionate impacts on overburdened communities, and working to dismantle barriers that have prevented these communities from thriving. 

This work involves both inclusive processes that give overburdened communities opportunities to shape decisionmaking and a deep investment in designing and implementing the laws, plans, policies, and programs that these communities ask for and need. Importantly, these programs and policies should address not only climate and environmental risks, but also pervasive stressors, such as lack of educational and economic opportunities and threats from gentrification and displacement. Therefore, equity should be broken down into and thought about in terms of two primary areas:

  1. Procedural equity describes a commitment to ensuring that communities have a voice in decisionmaking processes through a variety of different and inclusive engagement processes.
  2. Substantive equitable outcomes are legal and policy solutions and programs that seek to distribute access to the benefits of programs and investments according to specific local needs and remedy historic and ongoing underinvestment in communities.See footnote 6 

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