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City of Miami, Florida Resolution on Climate Gentrification

November 5, 2018

On November 5, 2018, Mayor Suarez of Miami signed a Resolution directing city staff to research the effects of “climate gentrification” on low-income communities that are inland at higher elevations, and to explore ways to stabilize property taxes to reduce displacement. The City of Miami, Florida is seeing high rates of sea-level rise and increasing incidence of nuisance flooding in low-lying areas. As a result, higher elevation areas of the city, which house many of Miami’s lower and moderate income communities, are seeing greater development pressures, which is affecting property values and taxes.

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Anticipated Vulnerabilities: Displacement and Migration in the Age of Climate Change

September 2019

When Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico in September of 2017, thousands of its inhabitants were forced to flee their homes - many of whom ended up in in the City of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Between 2017 and 2018, over 5,400 people moved from Puerto Rico to Holyoke. In the years that followed, the city and partners at Hunter College and the University of Connecticut surveyed these families, intending to learn what aspects worked in response to their displacement and resettlement. Officials also hoped to assess how other cities could duplicate the incorporation of Puerto Rican climate migrants into Holyoke as more frequent climate events displace additional communities in the coming years.

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Tehama, California Elevating Homes

The City of Tehama, California is working to protect vulnerable residents from flooding through elevation of their homes. Tehama is adjacent to the Sacramento River in the northern Central Valley and has endured several floods over the years. As climate change is anticipated to increase the potential for flooding in this area, residents are at a greater risk of losing their homes to flooding. Many of the residents are unable to pay for the cost of elevating their homes, prompting the city to patch together non-municipal funding sources to substantially reduce residents’ costs. The majority of the cost was covered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) through Section 205 of the Flood Control Act of 1948, and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board. The remaining 10% of the cost could be covered by funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CBDG) program for low income residents. 

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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.

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Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE)

2018

The Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE) planning process is aimed at climate adaptation and resilience planning for coastal communities in Louisiana. The strategy supports mitigating risks and increasing resilience to coastal impacts - especially flooding. The LA SAFE initiative was first funded through a HUD long-term disaster recovery grant, for six parishes most impacted by Hurricane Isaac in 2012.  Guided by the state of Louisiana, and a network of regional non-profits focused on coastal restoration and resilience, it is a goal of the LA SAFE program to expand the program statewide in the future.

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Sacramento, California Leak Free Program

January 2016

The City of Sacramento Department of Utilities Leak Free program pays for leak repair in the homes of low-income Sacramento residents. Recipients of the service must be homeowners and must live in areas designated by the State of California as being a “Disadvantaged Community” (DAC). The characteristics of a DAC include poverty, high unemployment, air and water pollution, and the presence of hazardous wastes as well as high incidence of asthma and heart disease. Through this program, residents who may not have access to affordable plumbing can sign up for one house visit from a contracted plumber.

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Community-driven Water Solutions in California's Central Valley - Community Water Center

Formed in 2006, the Community Water Center (CWC) is a grassroots organization in California’s Central Valley that works to combat water insecurity in frontline communities through community organizing, policy advocacy and public education to influence water governance and decision making. Many residents of the Central Valley are from low income, predominantly Latinx communities that deal with water scarcity, groundwater contamination, or a lack of proper infrastructure. CWC provides technical and legal assistance for frontline communities, training residents as clean water advocates and helping to secure funding for sustainable drinking water projects.

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Seattle Public Utilities - Utility Discount Program

2020

In recent years, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), which is the city’s water utility and provides drinking water and wastewater treatment, has strongly emphasized community engagement and equity issues through the creation of a variety of organizations and programs. One organization, Connect Capital, which is comprised of SPU staff and members of a community foundation and a community organization, advises SPU on how to ensure that the benefits of future  investments are equitable and address climate threats to those at risk of displacement. One result of Connect Capital’s encouragement is SPU’s investment in infrastructure in frontline communities, such as the South Park Neighborhood. Another equitable initiative under SPU is the Utility Discount Program, under which seniors, persons with disabilities, and low-income customers receive a reduction in their water and electricity bills. Households with incomes at or below 70% of state median income pay only 50% of their SPU bill. Further still, SPU’s Environmental Justice and Service Equity Division aims to promote inclusive community engagement and collaboration.

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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.

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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. 

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