Professional Practice

Smart Policies for a Changing Climate: Community Development

The “smart growth” approach to community planning and design emphasizes compact, walkable, transit-oriented (including active and nonmotorized transportation) development. Smart growth communities are more energy and resource efficient than their urban/suburban sprawl counterparts and provide more opportunities for use of  clean energy and distributed generation. When designed in conjunction with natural systems, these communities are also inherently more resilient and climate smart. Smart growth concepts apply at all scales—from individual sites to local communities to broader regional planning.

Design and Planning Solutions

Plan and design using smart growth approaches to decrease energy use and promote resilience. Walkable, livable, compact development significantly reduces emissions and energy use.

Include reuse/redevelopment of brownfields and grayfields in smart growth plans. Depending on size, location, and community needs, these previously developed sites can become sites for new compact development, parks and open spaces, or agriculture.

Incorporate clean energy and energy efficiency solutions in local and regional planning
. Renewable energy and distributed generation is increasingly cost-competitive with other generation sources and available in simple “off  the shelf ” modular products, primarily rooftop solar and community solar gardens (ie , larger solar installations)  Integrated backup battery storage prices are also falling rapidly, allowing for practical installation in single-family homes and residential and commercial buildings.

Policy Recommendations

Require climate change analysis of existing laws, rules, and regulations to identify and address areas that are inadvertently incompatible with climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. Since design and planning are heavily driven and/or constrained by insurance rules, zoning, and codes, review and revision of  existing regulations and policies are essential to promote climate-smart growth.

Prioritize and incentivize brownfield and grayfield rehabilitation
over developing on open green space.

Revise development regulations to focus less on land use categorization
and more on site planning, structure appearance, the quality of  the public realm, and integration with community goals.

Develop municipal and regional climate resilience plans
drawing on both historic data and projections/models of  future impacts. Make data available and transparent to the public, and create guidance/models for communities to follow.

Support community land banking to convert vacant and abandoned properties to productive use consistent
with community plans and goals. Community land banks are public or community-owned entities created for a single purpose: to acquire, manage, maintain, and repurpose vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed properties.

Create community investment trusts to fund local green infrastructure and resilient design projects.
A community investment trust is a financial inclusion tool created to empower residents and strengthen communities by removing barriers to financial inclusion and providing a low-dollar property investment opportunity to local residents.

Restructure property insurance policies and practices: 

- Coordinate government and private insurance to ensure that federal pooled risk approaches incentivize or require resilient rebuilding after losses
- Withdraw insurance benefits in hazard zones (eg , phase out coverage of  repetitive risk properties) and coordinate with relocation planning and funding/compensation for buyouts.

Require FEMA and/or other federal or state agencies to fund programs that support treatment of adverse public health issues resulting from natural disasters.

Develop a climate and health program/plan
that forecasts climate impacts and assesses health vulnerabilities.

Fund and implement regional/community designs
, including planting of  trees and other vegetation, that mitigate health impacts from extreme heat and poor air quality.

Require walkable open space within a quarter-mile radius of all residential development.

Include public health practitioners as a part of  community development decision-making processes.
  
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