Bold Climate Action Plans Can Create Jobs, Affordable Housing, and Equitable Cities

Affordable housing. Job creation. Equitable support for low income communities. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan addresses each one of these key issues. But a bold city-wide climate action program can play an equally important role in creating a more equitable city.

One quarter of New York City’s 8.4 million residents live in a floodplain. As climate change causes sea levels to rise, New Yorkers will face the danger of more severe storms, flooding, and heat waves. Since Mayor de Blasio supports building new housing on the waterfront, including areas which were devastated by Superstorm Sandy, this plan must be carried out with utmost care to avoid putting more people in danger. An alternative solution would be to rezone low-density, high elevation areas in the city for affordable housing.

There are similar decisions to be made around job creation. While expanding affordable housing will generate thousands of construction jobs, jobs can also be created through less risky projects like retrofitting buildings and city-wide planning for resiliency and future climate impacts.

The key takeaway here is that we need our city and community leaders to factor in the impacts of a rapidly changing climate when planning for affordable housing, job creation, and smart long-term development. 

De Blasio Plans Affordable Housing in Areas Swamped by Hurricane Sandy

By Katherine BagleyInsideClimate News | Feb 4, 2015

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable-housing plan for New York City announced Tuesday calls for thousands of new residences to be built in low-lying neighborhoods hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

These areas include Long Island City, Staten Island, the Rockaways and East Brooklyn, according to the plan de Blasio outlined yesterday in an unusual single-focus State of the City address. While the program will create jobs and help bridge the gap between rich and poor, it will also have to be carried out carefully to avoid putting more people in danger as water levels rise because of global warming, some New York environmental leaders said.

New York, the largest American city with 8.4 million residents, faces sea-level rise of 11 to 24 inches by the 2050s, according to a panel of scientists convened by the mayor’s office. This would put almost a quarter of the city in a floodplain, the group found. Climate change will bring the most severe hurricanes to the region more often and increase temperatures 3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2020 and 6.5 degrees by 2050. The number of days above 90 degrees Fahrenheit could jump to 57 by mid-century from 18 now, according to the panel.

“As we think about bold development decisions now, we have to factor in a rapidly changing climate,” said Matt Ryan, executive director of the labor coalition Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN), which focuses on post-Sandy rebuilding. “Sandy was evidence enough for that.” 

Flooding and wind from the 2012 storm caused more than $50 billion in damage in New York City, destroying infrastructure and homes and shutting down one of the world’s largest economic centers. Low-income communities are often the last to be evacuated, the last to be repopulated and the slowest to recover from such disasters.

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