2018 Green Cincinnati Plan, Ohio: Leveraging Resilience to Become a Climate Haven

Executive Summary

The City of Cincinnati, Ohio assesses opportunities for local investments in housing and critical services for people relocating in response to climate change in the 2018 Green Cincinnati Plan. The plan is built on three central pillars: Sustainability, Equity and Resilience, and is a strategic document to guide the city’s goals and objectives to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and become more climate resilient. Cincinnati identifies itself as a future “climate haven” that may receive people relocating from more vulnerable areas impacted by climate change, like coastal areas experiencing sea-level rise and flooding. Cincinnati uses the Green Plan to set a roadmap for making preparations to accommodate people moving to the city as a result of this domestic climate “in-migration.” The city has assessed the potential number of people that may relocate there in the future, and conducted a cost-benefit analyses to estimate the fiscal costs for this in-migration. As a result of this analysis, the city proposes how it could move forward with preparing for a new population. This includes identifying future and existing opportunities and programs for supplemental and long-term housing, funding sources to support housing and economic investments, and other “peer” climate haven cities, like Duluth, Minnesota, that can serve as a resource for Cincinnati. Ultimately, Cincinnati finds that it is feasible to become a climate haven, but that it will have to proactively prepare for new residents. The Green Cincinnati Plan can serve as an example for other local jurisdictions anticipating receiving people moving away from their homes in response to climate change. Long-term proactive planning, like in Cincinnati, can help address equity concerns and minimize the economic and social costs of population transitions. 



In the coming years, studies estimate that as many as 13 million U.S. citizens may move from the coast due to sea-level rise and flooding. Cincinnati expects that a lot of people may relocate to the city because Ohio has been identified as a “climate safer” state that may experience less significant impacts than coastal states; therefore, the city’s goal is to leverage its actions to be more resilient in order to attract new residents and businesses. 


Managed Retreat Example

Planning to Become a Receiving Area

The Green Cincinnati Plan highlights the roles certain agencies and organizations can play to help people find housing and jobs in the city. Outside organizations, for example, can help to ensure that there is sufficient temporary (e.g., shelters) or permanent affordable housing, depending on how long people may stay in Cincinnati — people could move to Cincinnati post-disaster until their homes are repaired and their communities recover or longer-term if they chose to relocate to the city. 

Cincinnati incorporates equity into each of its priority actions, including for how it can become a climate haven. Recognizing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on low income residents, the city plans to prioritize battery installations in disadvantaged neighborhoods where residents are more likely to need assistance in an emergency. For example, battery storage could be used at facilities that serve as cooling centers during heat emergencies.  



The city's Natural Systems Task Team focused on all issues of equity, sustainability, and resilience. They found that neighborhoods with high concentrations of disadvantaged residents often have inadequate tree canopies, so recommend planting trees in these neighborhoods to help reduce inequity.

The recommended Urban Heat Island Assessment will address equity also by providing methods of cooling to residents who are most affected. Possible implementation strategies that will come out of this including increasing tree canopy coverages, reducing the amount of impermeable surfaces, increasing the amount of green space, and adding cooling centers in the designated areas.  


Cincinnati does not propose what current or new agency or organization should lead the work to become a climate haven; it does, however, state that the target audience for this portion of the plan includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), residents and businesses of Cincinnati, including at-risk communities, and various aid organizations. The city finds that while it will require significant preparation, the project is feasible, because “peer cities,” like Duluth, Minnesota (also identified as and planning to become a potential climate haven) have created similar plans to address population surges that have been successful.   


Community Engagement

The city finalized the Green Cincinnati Plan after extensive engagement with the communities most likely to be affected by increasing influxes in population. Throughout the process, the city held over 30 public input meetings, which resulted in over 1,400 recommendations. In order to encourage turnout from underrepresented communities, several meetings were conducted in Spanish to accommodate non-native English speakers and held in neighborhood locations that were more easily accessible. 



In terms of funding, within the plan, the city establishes that it anticipates that non-local sources of funding from FEMA and private insurance will support its future investments in housing and relocation assistance. The city conducted a fiscal analysis that estimates the total costs and benefits of the proposed actions. While the project will require $600,000 in funding, the benefit of new residents and businesses to the city is also estimated at $600,000, resulting in a 1:1 cost-benefit ratio. The low cost presented is largely due to the fact that Cincinnati already has a large network of programs that assist individuals to find low-income housing, which can be further leveraged to assist new residents, and would have not have to make significant new program investments. For example, the Cincinnati Office of Community and Economic development provides down-payment assistance and offers educational tools and legal assistance, such as foreclosure prevention classes. To fund these programs, the office has allocated almost $790,000 to its housing division in its 2018 operating budget. Additionally, the city’s Metropolitan Housing Authority can offer escrow programs, which will be attached to their educational programs, in order to encourage self-sufficiency to incoming residents. In summary, the city finds that it will need to work extensively with external partners to become a climate haven.


Publication Date: April 2018

Related Organizations:

  • City of Cincinnati, Ohio

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Resource Types:

  • Adaptation plan
  • Best practice
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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