Green Infrastructure Toolkit


Equitable Investment

In determining how to deploy green infrastructure projects, policymakers can use socioeconomic indicators to prioritize green infrastructure investments in communities facing disproportionate risk and in environmental justice communities facing disproportionate burden from pollution. This section includes examples of how cities are using socioeconomic criteria and other factors to direct green infrastructure investments to underserved communities.

Related Resources

RainReady’s Residential Flood Assistance Program Case Study - Chicago, Illinois

Chicago's RainReady Residential Flood Assistance Program (FRAP) presents a model for how city's can partner with nonprofit agencies to provide technical assistance and funding to homeowners to help them implement green infrastructure solutions to reduce flood risks to private homes. In 2015-2016, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development partnered with the e Center for Neighborhood Technology’s (CNET), which provided a one-stop-shop to homeowners offering free flood mitigation assistance, including assistance verifying program eligibility, conducting home assessments, developing construction scopes of work, supporting contractor selection, and administering grant funding to pay for mitigation measures. The provided up to $50,000 in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funding to pay for a range of flood mitigation measures and repairs, including green infrastructure improvements. The homes were located throughout the city, but predominantly in neighborhoods where more than 30% of households have income below the federal poverty line. 

Baltimore, Maryland Growing Green Initiative

Baltimore’s Growing Green Initiative (GGI) is an example of a city grant program designed to facilitate reuse of vacant lands for urban greening projects, such as green stormwater infrastructure, urban gardens, tree planting, and community gathering spaces (e.g., pocket parks). Introduced in 2014, the initiative was created to help the city address the 14,000 vacant lots and 16,000 abandoned houses that were identified by the city in 2013. To support the initiative, the city developed a Green Pattern Book  to help community groups, nonprofit organizations, and others develop plans for reutilizing vacant lands to enhance green space, strengthen neighborhoods, and improve health and environmental quality in Baltimore neighborhoods.  The Green Pattern Book provides a useful guide for helping project proponents identify vacant land types and potential green uses including parks, urban forests, urban agriculture, and green stormwater management. GGI projects help the city reduce concerns raised by vacant lots and buildings (public health threats, increased crime, public safety concerns, etc.) and can also deliver broader resilience benefits in underserved communities by creating new jobs, increasing access to parks and community gardens, and improving water and air quality. Grants were awarded in 2015 and 2016 to facilitate implementation of GGI projects.

EPA Urban Waters Small Grants

EPA's Urban Waters Small Grant Program is a potential source of funding for green infrastructure and other resilience projects that highlight equity and environmental justice. The program offers small grants (up to $60,000) for water projects that encourage the growth of local business, promote public education, or otherwise create recreational, social, and employment opportunities in local communities. For example, the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation District (Albuquerque, New Mexico), in its efforts to improve the water quality of the Rio Grande watershed areas, received a grant to educate middle school students about water protection and stormwater runoff. Grants are competed and awarded every two years and are accessible to a wide range of entities, including state and local governments, Native American tribes, universities and colleges, nonprofits, and interstate agencies.


City of Berkeley, California 2016 Measure T1 - Bonds to Improve Existing City Infrastructure and Facilities

Voter passed Measure TI authorized the City of Berkeley to sell $100 million of General Obligation Bonds to improve the City's aging infrastructure and $1 million in funding was dedicated to development of green infrastructure criteria. To select projects for funding, City Staff applied criteria including considerations of how the project meets community needs (benefits to the greatest number of residents and address demographic changes), advances equity (considers geographic and economic equity), advances sustainability, and improves preparedness. Funding has been used to incorporate green infrastructure in parks in lower-income neighborhoods and to add green infrastructure improvements to bus stops.