Research Report Preserving, Protecting, and Building Climate-Resilient Affordable Housing
A Framework for Local Action
Oriya Cohen, Sara McTarnaghan, Anne N. Junod
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This framework integrates sustainability, resilience, and environmental justice principles to equip local and regional housing developers, planners, policymakers, and advocates with information, resources, and framing to advance climate-resilient housing in their communities. The report outlines the key challenges and opportunities that can impede or advance climate-resilient housing in communities and explains four pillars of action to achieve housing resilience: policy and finance; neighborhood and community infrastructure; housing stock; and the social capital of individuals, households, and communities.

Why It Matters

There is an urgent need to transform our nation’s housing stock to reduce its carbon footprint and make it more climate resilient. Climate hazards like rising temperatures, flooding, and more frequent and severe storms already threaten housing stability and affordability and these impacts are expected to worsen. Local and regional housing developers, planners, policymakers, and advocates need new language, knowledge, and resources to better understand the emerging climate challenges faced by the housing sector and to advance holistic solutions that can address mitigation, adaptation, and environmental justice goals.

Key Takeaways

  • The increased severity and prevalence of acute and chronic climate hazards lead to the damage and loss of housing units across the market—constraining housing supply; increasing the cost of construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance; and burdening residents with the financial and social costs of damage and recovery.
  • The housing sector contributes to climate change: Residential energy use and low-density land use patterns account for a significant share of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, fueling the conditions that make climate hazards more frequent, severe, and threatening to communities across the country.
  • To advance climate-resilient housing, housing developers, planners, policymakers, and advocates can look to solutions across four pillars of housing resilience: policy and finance, neighborhood and community infrastructure, housing stock, and people and social capital.
  • By using this pillared approach, housing stakeholders can achieve multiple crosscutting sustainable housing outcomes, including (1) connecting oftentimes siloed housing actors and sectors; (2) creating numerous economic, social, and environmental benefits; and (3) developing a long-term and proactive strategy for a sustainable and equitable housing stock that is resilient to the impacts of a warming climate.
  • With the recent passage of major federal legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—coupled with increasing policy action in many state legislatures—resilient housing coalitions and stakeholders have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage these policies and capitalize on political and economic momentum.

How We Did It

The framework is informed by the existing evidence base, the experience of practitioners, and the current policy landscape. We conducted expert and key informant interviews with 18 housing policy experts from the federal, state, and local levels, as well as housing providers and housing lenders to understand the national landscape of climate-related hazards affecting housing stocks and markets. We also conducted a review of applied, practitioner-focused, and scholarly literature and resources aimed at helping planners, developers, and policymakers plan for, preserve, and develop climate-resilient housing. Finally, we conducted a scan of existing federal and innovative state policies and programs that help enhance resilience or sustainability for households, particularly low-income households and those living in affordable housing.

Research Areas Climate change, disasters, and community resilience Housing
Tags Climate adaptation and resilience Climate mitigation, sustainability, energy and land use Design and construction quality Disaster recovery and mitigation Environmental justice Housing affordability Housing stability
Policy Centers Research to Action Lab Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center
Research Methods Qualitative data analysis
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