On December 8, 2022, the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN) Equitable Development and Anti-Displacement Collaborative hosted a learning session entitled, Exploring the Intersections between Environmental Justice and Equitable Development in Infrastructure Investments. The recording, panelist bios, and presentation slides from the event are available on the UWLN resources webpage. This blog post is a follow-up to the session to address some of the questions that were received as part of the registration process as well as those that were posed in the chat during the session.
**Answers within the document were provided from the Dec 8 session panelists—Lubna Ahmed, Sonia Kikeri, and Cheyenne Holliday—as well as River Network Staff, Erin Kanzig, Renée Mazurek, and Diana Toledo.
Are there cities that are naming anti-displacement up front as they discuss infrastructure investments and other investments?
- See this report by the United States Conference of Mayors for several examples of cities that are using an equity framework for their investments that can be utilized as other funding comes to their communities. Example from Denver: Denver established Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization (NEST) Neighborhood Activation Grants.“The public was engaged for input through an extensive outreach campaign that specifically sought out the opinions and perspective of populations residing in Denver’s top ten neighborhoods most vulnerable to displacement.”
- The Living Cully Partnership—a collaboration among Habitat for Humanity Portland Region, Hacienda Community Development Corporation, Native American Youth and Family Center, and Verde in Portland, OR—was formed in 2010 with the intention of improving the Cully Neighborhood while combating gentrification and displacement. Recently, after years of advocacy, the City of Portland voted to approve the Cully Community-led TIF district that will go into effect in July of 2023.
- Participants in the session shared examples of anti-displacement plans in their cities:
- City of Milwaukee anti-displacement plan: A Place in the Neighborhood: An Anti-Displacement Plan for Neighborhoods Surrounding Downtown Milwaukee
- City of Austin Project Connect includes community-driven Anti-Displacement investments and initiatives
- Additional Resource: Localized Anti-Displacement Policies: Ways to Combat the Effects of Gentrification and Lack of Affordable Housing
I am keen to learn of concrete examples of where local capacity has been enhanced such to garner access to funding for Green Infrastructure.
- The Justice40 Accelerator aims to build capacity of frontline communities to access resources, including funding for community-designed solutions. At least 15 cohort member organizations are focused on green infrastructure. Cohort members receive funding, technical assistance, 1-1 navigator assistance for funding opportunities, access to educational materials, tools, and resources, and federal funding preparation workshops with guest speakers.
- Greenprint Partners also offers a “Green Infrastructure Funding Accelerator” to assist communities in preparing local, state, and federal infrastructure funding for green stormwater infrastructure initiatives. Learn more here.
How can you ensure funding will be used equitably invested in predominantly minority areas?
- Example from the State of Colorado: The new Colorado EJ Grant program is only available to those who are located within Disproportionately Impacted Communities (must be more than 40% low income, more than 40% people of color, or more than 40% housing cost burdened). Determination of eligibility is based on Colorado EnviroScreen, a GIS mapping tool that displays this data in an easy to understand way. This ensures funding is being targeted to communities most in need. There are other states like California who are doing this as well.
What are the top 3 steps needed to make equitable development take place ?
- One perspective offered: (1) The community clearly identifies the gap that exists in equitable development, (2) the community develops a sustainable solution to address that gap (e.g. resources needed, capacity building, collaboration, etc.), and (3) the community implements the solution to address equitable development and reflects on lessons learned to ensure they can sustain the positive change.
- An additional tool: Equitable Development Principles and Scorecard from The Alliance
How can the federal govt help further ?
- The EPA Brownfields training, research, and technical assistance grant opportunity includes funding TA support “for minimizing displacement and gentrification resulting from brownfields reuse” to nonprofits, local governments, etc. This type of support could be expanded or included in other technical assistance grants across agencies.
How can NGOs and CBOs support and educate community members and the K12 community?
- Examples: Groundwork Denver Youth Programs and WE ACT’s Environmental Health and Justice Leadership Training
Do you have examples of community members being hired or trained in workforce development programs that promote climate resilience (and help to prevent displacement)?
- WE ACT’s Worker Training and Job Readiness Program: There are local residents that go through OSHA training and get trained specifically on how to install solar and we’ve seen those same people get hired to install solar in their communities
- Other examples: Verde Builds and Metro Blooms Design + Build
What is the tradeoff between urgency for climate change, etc. and effective community outreach?
- The key is good organizers and good development staff. Community members are ready to take action, it takes good organizers and resources to ensure they are equipped with what they need to act on the urgency they are feeling and experiencing from climate change
- Talk to communities to identify their priorities and connect them to resources. Sometimes, it does mean slowing things down to get accurate/adequate engagement.
- We have to build community capacity; they hold true sustainable solutions already.
Has anyone started thinking about both cumulative impacts and cumulative benefits? I worry that the “many problems” are becoming more familiar, but we still consider “one solution” to those many problems.
- The updated Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) was modified to try to assess cumulative impacts. Community Benefit Plans are an attempt to provide a framework to name intersectional benefits – which might be somewhat aligned with “cumulative benefits.”
- Many community orgs have been working on getting legislation passed at the state level addressing cumulative impacts and benefits. New Jersey is a good example.
- A grassroots coalition is working to develop cumulative impacts legislation for Minnesota.
How do we ensure community benefit agreements and similar vehicles don’t become an accepted quid pro quo to impose unwanted projects on communities?
- See the Emerald Cities Collaborative Justice 40 Playbook – The People’s Justice 40+ Community Benefit Plan: Step-by-Step Guide
What order of operations take place as funding opportunities are released? I feel like I either miss the announcement altogether, or if I am aware of the funding opportunity- I’m unable to decipher what they are trying to solicit because there are too many categories.
- From Emerald Cities Collaborative Justice 40 Playbook – The People’s Justice 40+ Community Benefit Plan: Step-by-Step Guide: “Get updates on federal/state/local policies/plans from these sources:
Stay tuned for more opportunities from the Urban Waters Learning Network and the Equitable Development and Anti-Displacement Collaborative in 2023 by joining us on our online communications platform: UWLN on Mobilize or sign up for our quarterly newsletter.