Professional Practice

Smart Policies for a Changing Climate: Vulnerable Communities

Vulnerable communities are those whose location puts them at special risk from the effects of climate change. These include settlements along coastlines and inland waterways that are at risk from flooding and sea-level rise, as well as communities at risk from increased drought, higher temperatures, and wildfires. Further, special attention needs to be paid to underserved and low-income communities that have fewer resources and face other barriers to accessing resilience and adaptation solutions. These communities typically lack the community and economic amenities that are promoted in smart growth strategies, and many already suffer adverse health impacts from proximity to industry and degraded environments.
Design and Planning SolutionsProactively address equitable access to transportation options, affordable housing, jobs, and recreation and open space.

Address environmental justice explicitly in all design and planning efforts
, including priority placement of  green infrastructure.

Evaluate, discuss, and plan for future climate impacts on vulnerable communities
. These discussions must include evaluation of  options for relocation and managed retreat as well as options for improving safety and resilience in existing locations.

Policy RecommendationDevelop suitable relocation, retreat, and/or evacuation plans.

Protect floodplain functions by avoiding building in floodplains except for minimal impact uses that can accommodate inundation, such as recreational uses, and for essential water-related functions that do not reduce floodplain storage capacity or put people or structures at risk. 

Update FEMA flood maps and include an analysis of claims data to capture impervious-surface-driven flooding
outside floodplains. Include projections of  future climate change impacts.

Reinstitute Federal Flood Risk Management Standards.

Limit or prohibit building in fire-prone areas
where native vegetation is dense and that are difficult to access by fire and rescue services.

Require environmental justice analyses
that may also address social and racial inequities for projects utilizing public funding, tax incentives, or specialized permits based on provided public benefits.

Promote mixed-income housing development and mixed-use development that provides easily accessible essential services for all.

 Increase/establish low-income housing and new market tax credits.  

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Julia Lent

Maxine Artis

Professional Practice 

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