Learning Collaborative for Multifamily Housing Resilience, New York City, New York

New York City’s Learning Collaborative for Multifamily Housing Resilience demonstrates how cities can partner with community development stakeholders to conduct vulnerability assessments that enhance the resilience of low-income communities to climate disasters. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, approximately 20% of the city’s public housing stock was damaged by flood waters, due in part to the placement of high concentrations of subsidized developments in surge-affected areas.1  The following year, Enterprise Community Partners, a leading affordable housing nonprofit, worked with 12 local organizations to participate in a two-year Learning Collaborative for Multifamily Housing Resilience to conduct vulnerability assessments for the region’s affordable housing infrastructure to extreme weather events.2  Part of the three-year Hurricane Sandy Recovery and Rebuilding Program, the Collaborative conducted a resilience assessment of 56 multifamily properties located in the flood zone in the New York and New Jersey region, and brought together a dozen local community development groups overseeing a total of 293 buildings and 14,500 affordable housing units. The interdisciplinary coalition focused on addressing wide-ranging community needs, from affordable housing and climate resilience to services for Asian Americans, the elderly, individuals living with HIV/AIDS. The assessment resulted in a manual for addressing affordable, multifamily building resilience, with strategies that focus on both adaptive measures like building retrofits as well as measures to strengthen social networks and enhance community resilience.

In April 2013, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. initiated the two-year Learning Collaborative for Multifamily Housing Resilience with the goal of improving the resiliency of 14,500 low-income households living in nearly 300 multifamily buildings in New York and New Jersey against future climate hazards. The Learning Collaborative was designed to serve as a forum for different affordable multifamily housing groups to share lessons and resources in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Members of the collaborative represented a diverse field of affordable housing and community stakeholders, and included representatives from:

  • Asian Americans for Equality
  • Bailey House (a nonprofit providing housing and other services to people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses) 
  • CAMBA Housing Ventures (a Brooklyn-based nonprofit affordable housing developer) 
  • Carroll Gardens Association (a Brooklyn-based nonprofit focusing on affordable housing and domestic workers’ rights)
  • Community Investment Strategies (New Jersey-based developer of multifamily, affordable and market-rate housing)
  • Fifth Avenue Committee (a nonprofit focused on community and economic development in South Brooklyn) 
  • Jersey City Housing Authority
  • Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA)
  • Lott Community Development Corporation
  • Lower East Side People’s Mutual Housing Association
  • Services for the UnderServed (a social services organization providing resources for people with disabilities and people experiencing homelessness, among other individuals)
  • Trip C Housing (a nonprofit community housing development organization (CHDO) based in New Brunswick, NJ)

Members of the Collaborative worked with Enterprise to assess the physical resilience of 56 multifamily properties located in the flood zone. These assessments helped to inform recommendations for enhancing housing and community resilience in Enterprise’s 2016 manual, “Strategies for Multifamily Building Resilience: Disaster Preparedness for Affordable Housing Organizations,” funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other partners. The manual provides guidance to implementing 19 resilience strategies across four categories:

  • “Protection,” or strategies that reduce a building’s physical vulnerability to extreme weather (e.g., wet and dry floodproofing);
  • “Adaptation,” or strategies to improve a building’s ability to adapt to climate change impacts (e.g., stormwater management);
  • “Backup,” or strategies for providing critical needs in the event of a power outage or loss of other services (e.g., maintaining backup power); and 
  •  “Community,” or strategies to enhance community resilience (e.g., strengthening community ties).

Additionally, the members of the Collaborative shared resources and worked with Enterprise to assess the vulnerability of each organization’s housing portfolio to future climate change hazards; developed disaster preparedness and response plans for their respective organizations; and identified funding mechanisms to implement recommendations from the Enterprise’s 2016 manual. The Collaborative is one example of how community organizations representing disparate but common interests can organize around enhancing the climate resilience of affordable housing and complement existing local government efforts. 

Publication Date: April 2013

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  • Assessment
  • Best practice
  • Engagement
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