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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — State of New Jersey: Blue Acres Buyout Program

July 15, 2020

The New Jersey Blue Acres Buyout Program is a nationally recognized example of a longstanding, state-run buyout program. Blue Acres works closely with municipalities throughout the state to identify privately owned properties that are routinely threatened or flooded due to sea-level rise and more frequent weather events. The program works directly with local governments to prioritize comprehensive buyouts of affected neighborhoods, instead of individual properties, and restores and protects the properties to maximize the flood and cost-reduction benefits for communities and the environment. To accomplish effective state-local coordination, the program has a diversified staff that meets local needs including case workers who work directly with participants in each buyout area, and a financial team that negotiates mortgage forgiveness with banks and other financial lenders on behalf of homeowners. As climate change worsens and makes extreme weather events more common, other states and local governments may increasingly evaluate the potential for buyouts, particularly in coastal jurisdictions. Decisionmakers could consider institutionalizing buyouts as a part of comprehensive climate adaptation and coastal and floodplain management strategies to encourage neighborhoods to relocate to safer, higher ground areas and restore ecosystems to attain flood, natural resources, and other community benefits.

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina: Floodplain Buyout Program

July 15, 2020

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services (CMSS) — a county-wide regional utility in North Carolina — has been administering a Floodplain Buyout Program to relocate vulnerable residents out of floodplains and reduce long-term flood damage. The buyout program is focused on risk reduction and flood mitigation best practices, where once bought out, properties are returned to open space uses to restore their natural beneficial flood retention and water quality improvement functions and provide other community amenities, like parks and trails. CMSS has purchased more than 400 flood-prone homes and businesses and enabled over 700 families and businesses to relocate to less vulnerable locations outside of the floodplain. CMSS has also supported a number of leaseback arrangements on a case-by-case basis with property owners to increase participation in the buyout program and reduce the county’s property maintenance costs. The program has been funded through a combination of federal and local government sources, with leasebacks also supporting the recapture of some costs. Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Floodplain Buyout Program is an example of a nationally recognized approach to supporting voluntary retreat in a riverine floodplain. Other local governments could consider adopting a comprehensive buyout program like Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s or individual program elements, like local funding options or leasebacks, to help support voluntary retreat decisions in coastal areas experiencing sea-level rise, impacts from disaster events, and land loss. This case study is one of 17 case studies featured in a report written by the Georgetown Climate Center, Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas: Lessons and Tools from 17 Case Studies.

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From Newtok to Mertarvik: A Native Alaskan Tribal Village Relocation

Several tribal villages in Alaska are facing impending community-wide climate impacts of permafrost degradation, sea level rise, erosion, and flooding  which require immediate adaptation measures, including the potential of managed retreat. However, only one, the Village of Newtok, is in the process of actively relocating to a new site, Mertarvik, which was conveyed to Newtok through a federal land grant. The Newtok team  composed of federal, state, and local tribal representatives  is prioritizing the development of housing, roads, energy, and an evacuation center in the near-term. The project goal is to relocate everyone in Newtok to Mertarvik by 2023. The Newtok relocation has been funded by a patchwork of federal and state agencies for over 20 years. This case study can highlight one approach and ongoing lessons learned for state and local jurisdictions confronting larger-scale questions about managed retreat, and the process of transitioning entire communities to higher ground. 

Related Organizations: Village of Newtok, Alaska, State of Alaska

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Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Boston, Massachusetts

The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) in the Dudley Triangle neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts is one of the first examples of a city-land trust partnership designed to address a range of community challenges including housing affordability, and racial and economic inequality. In the 1980s, DSNI created the community land trust, Dudley Neighbors, Inc. (DNI) to combat blight in the Dudley Triangle neighborhood, which as a result of disinvestment had numerous vacant properties and became a frequent site for dumping and arson. The goal of the land trust was to facilitate redevelopment of the neighborhood without displacing existing residents and to empower community control over future development. DNI acquired 60 acres of land and currently stewards 225 units of affordable housing, an urban farm, a greenhouse, a charter school, parks, and a town common.  The DSNI is also notable because of the unique partnership with the City of Boston. The City granted the land trust eminent domain authority to condemn lands in the Dudley Triangle neighborhood and provided the land trust significant financial resources to support the development of affordable housing and other community projects in the neighborhood. DSNI’s work has helped to enhance the resilience of the community by preventing displacement in the face of rapid gentrification in the city, enhancing food security for residents, creating and stewarding green space that help to reduce urban heat islands, and by increasing social cohesion in the neighborhood through community activities and a community-led governing Board. DSNI shows how innovative public-partnerships between land trusts and cities can be fostered to address climate resilience and other community stressors, such as the lack of affordable housing, blight, and disinvestment.

Author or Affiliated User: Jessica Grannis

Resource Category: Solutions

 

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City of Minneapolis, Minnesota Neighborhoods 2020: Community Engagement Working Group

December 2018

The City of Minneapolis’ Neighborhoods 2020 initiative is a process to restructure how the City serves and supports neighborhood organizations. As part of this process, Minneapolis formed a Community Engagement Policy Work Group, which created a framework for a Citywide Community Engagement Policy. This framework outlines the processes and stakeholder commitments necessary to improve the City’s engagement with community members, and places an emphasis on a thoughtful, integrated community engagement policy that extends to all members of Minneapolis. 

 

Related Organizations: City of Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Tiered Assistance Program

2017

The City of Philadelphia created the Tiered Assistance Program (TAP) in 2017 in order to address water affordability for low income communities. In Philadelphia, water affordability is an issue that affects a large number of families - between April 2012 and January 2018, 40% of households either had unpaid bills or some other sort of water debt. To address this issue, the Philadelphia Water Department implemented TAP, a program that allows customers to pay water bills at a percent of their income - this payment is capped at 3%. Through this program’s fixed rates, Philadelphians who are struggling to pay their water bill can budget more accurately and access more affordable water, which is predicted to result in increased payment rates and reduced water debts.

Related Organizations: City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Resilient Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Resilient Baton Rouge is a program designed to increase local community capacity in the Baton Rouge area of Louisiana to manage mental and behavioral health in flood-prone parts of the region. By engaging local leaders and healthcare providers, the program has been able to focus on not only delivering mental health services to residents displaced by floodwaters, but also to engage community members in a longer-term process to strengthen both the local communities themselves but also the plans to increase resilience in the region. By deeply engaging affected residents and stakeholders, the plans for resilience broadly are more responsive and targeted to those most affected by the floods. The program is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with fiscal sponsorship from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

Related Organizations: Louisiana Department of Health, Community and Patient Partnered Research Network, Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Baton Rouge Health District

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Million Trees Miami - Miami-Dade County, Florida

Miami-Dade County, Florida’s Million Trees Miami initiative aims to plant 1 million trees in lower-income communities with insufficient tree canopy in order to alleviate heat stress in the county. This initiative stems from the County’s 2006 Street Tree Master Plan, which set a goal to achieve 30% tree canopy in Miami-Dade by 2020. Neat Streets Miami, a multi-jurisdictional County Board, is working to implement this goal through the Million Trees Miami initiative. Through a 2016 Urban Tree Canopy Assessment, the County determined that lower-income areas, including predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhoods, had significantly less tree canopy than their wealthier counterparts. As a result, the County is prioritizing tree planting in its most impoverished and low-canopy areas through initiatives such as the Street Tree Matching Grant. Increased tree canopy cover in communities provides many important adaptation benefits, including protection from flooding, urban heat island mitigation, and improved water and air quality. 

Related Organizations: Miami-Dade County, Florida

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New York City, ConEd Storm Hardening and Resiliency Collaborative

The Storm Hardening and Resiliency Joint Agreement demonstrates how community-based organizations can advocate for investments in grid resilience and ensure that investments are made without significant rate increases for low-income customers. Vulnerabilities and inequities in energy infrastructure were exposed following Superstorm Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, which caused significant impacts to New York City’s (NYC) energy system. To protect customers, the region, and energy systems from future natural disasters, Consolidated Edison, Inc. (ConEd) proposed a $1 billion capital investment for years 2013 through 2016 to mitigate impacts of future extreme weather, protect infrastructure, harden energy system components, and facilitate restoration. The utility organized a “Resiliency Collaborative” process to decide on how funds will be spent in their rate application filing. A collaboration of 12 parties including ConEd, NYC agency officials, and nonprofit and academic stakeholders resulted in a Joint Agreement between state Public Service Commission (PSC), ConEd, and other collaborative parties that froze electric rates for two years and required $1 billion in investment in storm hardening and resiliency. The multi-year rate plans ensure that delivery rates will not increase until after the rate plans have ended. The plan also offers rate mitigation for customers while assuring continued safe and reliable service. The agreement also provides for the expansion of the ConEd low-income discount programs to ConEd’s electric and gas businesses for the benefit of low income customers.

Related Organizations: City of New York, New York, Consolidated Edison, Inc. (ConEd)

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Designing new models of energy distribution: Hunts Point Community Microgrid, New York City

The Hunts Point Microgrid Project is an initiative of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR), designed to protect important citywide infrastructure during emergencies that threaten energy distribution and to address critical vulnerabilities for both community and industry. The project integrates energy technologies that minimize power disruption in times of extreme weather in an area that serves as a major food-supply hub located in the Bronx, New York City. Hunts Point was identified as a priority area for climate resilience initiatives after Hurricane Sandy, as the potential impacts of the storm exposed the importance and vulnerability of the food systems infrastructure in the region. The project studied the feasibility of a district cogeneration facility to provide electricity, steam, and refrigeration to local food markets, nearby businesses, and the residential community facilities in the area. In addition to its vulnerability to climate impacts, the Bronx has socioeconomically vulnerable residents - the average household income in the borough is 40% lower than the city average and 34% lower than the national average. The South Bronx, where Hunts Point is located, is 57.1% Hispanic and 39.8% Black. The South Bronx neighborhood is also home to a major wholesale food cooperative located at the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, as well as 12,300 residents and one of the City’s larger wastewater treatment plants.

Related Organizations: New York City Economic Development Corporation, New York City Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency

Resource Category: Solutions

 

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