in Climate Change, Housing, Housing Affordability

Housing and Climate

Tweets from housing advocacy groups warned of the 2008 Recession for five years (here). They see another housing crisis forming in America caused by raising public awareness. It is about how equity was kept away from people by Americans against themselves. It is an issue defined by the nation’s 400 hundred-year heritage of enslavement, cold, racist terrorism, and bigotry. These facts also describe the world’s history, but it is the U.S. Constitution that had some ideas about how moral people could change immoral societies.

RLC – OCCUPY

Problems that hurt people and go undefined and unanswered creates a climate for authoritarian solutions. The often-told answer is an old retort of hard work, healthy homes, communities, and families. The response is correct but blind to the history of privileges extended to white America as it became the United States. For centuries rights and freedoms were extended to all people. Policymakers made the denial of pathways to equity without a moment’s reflection. The crime of bias barred the accumulation of wealth from property to succeeding generations. The quiet yet insidious reduction and denials of opportunity from education are proven. The lack of equity is significant.

Over a half-century has passed since the idea of forming nonprofit housing development corporations was established by concerned residents and city officials. In Brooklyn and throughout New York City, this emergent network of housing rights advocates works as nonprofit partners with housing developers drawing on various financial mechanisms to defend low- and moderate-income households from the myth of “market rate” access to housing. Formed in the early 1970s, the Association of Neighborhood Housing Developers (ANHD) initially sought to bring equity to families by acquiring publicly owned (in rem) housing and converting it to various local ownership structures. The idea began during the great wave of housing vacancy and abandonment that started in the 1950s that destroyed entire neighborhoods. The pathway to equity remains narrow, easily recognized in the subtle name change of ANHD from developer to advocate. It is now the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (here).

A public map listing of Brooklyn organizations is offered (here). One question is posed. Can equity be created for low- and moderate-income households? Brooklyn’s housing rights and development organizations will struggle with the pandemic-stimulated crisis in rental housing. They will be torn between the logical interests of those who hold equity in the rental property and thousands of tenants without the resources to participate. Yet, in this crisis, there is an opportunity to create new partnerships toward equity in housing because the issue is straight forward as this heading states:

Every problem is becoming a housing location problem.

Access to work from the stock trades to the most highly skilled professions is proven with painful references to people of color such as “they are not ready,” or the best work suited “for them” is agricultural service. These actions still rip the opportunity for equity with an intense generational impact on people of color. In the centuries that led to the rise of American hegemony, not one person, not W.E.B. DuBois or even Martin Luther King, fully articulated the loss of equity. The voice of Ta-Nehisi Coates is the most current (here). He stands on firm ground because the U.S. has participated in reparations six times. The seventh time should take a long hard look at housing as linked to the displacement challenges posed by climate change.

Ending the Wherever Movement

After WWII, localities keep a hold on the tail of the revenue bull while blind to the beast. As a result, in the last century, millions of households benefited from federal housing policies with only one location principle – housing wherever you want. However, in this new century reducing the mortgage interest subsidy on the demand side and weakening a long list of development incentives on the supply side has severely weakened federal leadership in housing preservation and development to continue the “build wherever” policy.

A new housing crisis is in the air for reasons other than systemic racism in America. Every issue connects to a housing problem. For some time, the equity crisis re-establishes classicism under headings such as “culture wars,” but the results change little. The metaphor is weak. The facts on the structure of every “next disaster” can be different using resilience principles. Technology offers opportunities to build a broader coalition on equity with justice that includes race by correcting past wrongs yet moves forward to circumvent long-established rules of “divide to conquer.”

The surge of affordable single-family housing in America continues in the hot wetlands of the south with periodic drought and the flat drylands of the southwest with asymmetrical flash floods and fire. The onset of climate change will drown the wetlands, scorch and burn the drylands, and cause enormous disruptions in every region of the United States.

Denying the annual recurrence of this possibility is a repudiation of science and a political endorsement of catastrophic resolution. I will not be surprised if we experience a bout of biblical pestilence in the narrative of the resistance to this long-term, permanent threat. Long before the direct links to climate change formed, the impacts of disastrous choices in land use development are rightly defined as “environmental racism” by pointing directly at the disproportionate number of low-and-moderate-income people losing equity. The damage and despair reveal a broad swath of painful historic bigotry, but now the dangers are thrown at everyone.

The opportunity to bring national policies back with conditions that mitigate the impact of regional climate change by region makes it possible to re-establish national housing development policies as the leading edge of a new strategy. It will be re-focused by climate protection that builds restoration with resilience. Second, it will create sustainable equity in communities despite storms of enormous ferocity. Finally, it will be designed to survive the hatred and bigotry far too quickly injected into the threat of high water, drought, and fire.

Two Centuries Out

Living way up in Maryland’s Appalachian blue ridge range, it is easy to find seashell fossils.  When a friend built a house up there, they removed a boulder covered in Trilobite fossils, and there was a shark tooth that said to me the sea was here for a very long time, and it will be back.

In the following summary of Tweets from the Housing Advocacy People (HAP) of July 2019, it may be possible to find threads of principle and elements of novelty in current policy efforts that will alter the pervasive opinion that the purpose of the national government has not lost its way. As a result, it will be possible to forge new policy from environmental protection as a national defense strategy forced by the bright light of survival and a much more severe focus on the big picture. I offer one example.

The ocean’s tide can flow up and into the Great Appalachian Valley from Maine’s ports to South Carolina’s shores over the next few centuries. The ancient geological record proves it has been there before. Given a long-term view, getting ready should be a top priority. Preparation for this kind of “sea change” in all its meanings is the most critical action of this century (the original map as shown below is here). Issues like this are just the beginning:

Hundreds of more practical definitions of establishing policies governing housing equity and location can be surmised with a moment reviewing location and percentage of elderly households as a coastal population as provided by a Climate Central study.

Take your pick of issues for building a constituency on housing development and location. If the Gulf of Mexico’s fate is an alga thickened swamp, we need ideas to be prepared for what that means. If the Pacific Ocean’s vast torrents alter the Gulf Stream, El Niño yields unsurvivable surface heat or hundreds of tornadoes and hurricanes. Not being ready is a super bad idea. Whether friendly or with horrible force, heed the words, “the water will come.” The plan seemed different when time itself became for sale, and that is not a surprise if you know how non-fungible tokens (NFT) and blockchains changed all financial transactions.

Policy People

Please enjoy a look at the national Tweet-O-Rama organizations focused on housing (here). With those thoughts in mind, it is logical to look at politics as a sport and as a practice that is now very different from the role of leadership that it implies. A growing number of elected national representatives now complain of a system of government that appears to ignore the will of the people.

Climate Design

The Planning and Design Problems of Climate Change
Measures to Consider

The book “Climate Design,” discussed (here) needs to be re-read by more people. Coastal wind and advanced flood plain envelopes will become integral to a building, and land use policy as light and air standards are today. Traditional electric power grid (coal/oil/gas) systems will go to a 24/7/365 pricing structure to spread demand.  Waterproof everything 14ft above MHT will be standard for 75% of the new housing units and expand to 30% of the land area.  Rain harvesting will be a component of buildings, and “complete streets” make room for vehicles other than cars.   Power storage locations and systems will take top priority.  New route designs will accommodate a vastly broader range of personal vehicles (type, size).  So-called “intermodal nodes” will become high-value zones.

Buildings and Energy

  • Improve energy incentives in buildings by centralizing incentives. Update the State Energy Code swiftly and expedite “climate-friendly” projects. Prioritize energy efficiency initiatives for affordable housing.
  • The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) should be raised from 25% to 30%.
  • The Public Service Commission should be permitted to require time-of-use pricing, which allows the price of electricity to more closely track the actual cost of producing it on an hour-by-hour basis.
  • Provide incentives for installing a “smart meter” to allow for data exchange between the electricity provider and the customer’s electric meter.
  • Sub-metering should be required in all buildings to allow building owners to bill tenants for individual electric usage.
  • The State Energy Code should be amended to cover more building renovations; currently, only renovations that involve the replacement of 50% or more of a building’s subsystem must comply with the Code.
  • All new or substantially renovated school buildings should be required to meet green building standards.
  • Water and wastewater treatment plants should be required to adopt energy conservation requirements.
  • Reinstate the State Energy Planning Board

Land Use

  • The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations should be amended such that GHG emissions are considered for projects that are subject to it.
  • GHG emissions should be factored into local comprehensive plans.
  • Wind projects, including those offshore, should be encouraged and New York should adopt a statewide wind energy goal as part of its RPS requirement.

Vehicles and Transportation

  • Continue to strive for a 10% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) below business as usual within 10 years; to this end, New York should initiate a VMT Task Force.
  • Consider imposing feebates on the purchase of new vehicles with low fuel economy and offer rebates on the purchase of vehicles with high fuel economy.
  • Encourage the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Include Energy-saving vehicle maintenance techniques as part of the vehicle registration process.

Additional recommendations

  • Encourage the expansion of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by promoting the adoption of an economy-wide cap on GHGs; in addition, consider lowering the existing cap.
  • Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology should be pursued provided that adequate federal funding is available.
  • Green workforce development should be promoted by enhancing educational and job training programs throughout the state.
  • Encourage the Interagency Committee on Sustainability and Green Procurement to be aggressive in setting green specifications for certain goods that are purchased by State agencies.
  • Promote methane capture by requiring or encouraging it in all municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills.
  • Improve its floodplain mapping system by taking into account future sea level rise.

New York State Bar Association Task Force on Global Warming reviewed New York’s existing laws and programs, including existing and pending federal laws regarding climate change.  The Task Force is chaired by Professor Michael Gerrard, Director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University School of Law.  (Jan. 2009.)  The proposals are organized into four categories: buildings and energy, land use, transportation, and others. In addition, the following was edited from the Executive Summary excerpted in the Law of the Land blog.

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