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The Role of Housing in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

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Summer 2022   


The Role of Housing in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation


      • Housing intersects with climate change through its influence on greenhouse gas emissions and in the ways it both exposes and protects residents from the consequences of climate change.
      • Using energy-efficient construction methods, adopting electrically powered appliances and heating and cooling systems, and locating housing near public transit are several strategies that can reduce the impact of housing on climate change.
      • Housing and communities can be designed and built to be more resilient to natural disasters, which have become more frequent and severe because of climate change.
      • HUD can lead by example by promoting energy efficiency and resilience within its own housing portfolio and helping localities build for resilience and climate adaptation.

Climate change poses a grave threat to the world, and action to mitigate its effects is urgently needed. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in particular, is necessary to slow the pace of climate warming.1 Achieving significant reductions in emissions will require altering many aspects of human activity, including the construction and energy efficiency of residential housing.

An aerial view of buildings and trees partially submerged under water.
Climate change has increased the frequency and severity of natural disasters, including severe flooding events, which have also become increasingly costly.

Yet, even as we move to curb the speed of climate change and forestall further damage, the dangers of climate change are already apparent in slow-onset disasters such as permafrost melt, sea level rise, drought, and extreme heat as well as the increasing frequency, severity, and costs of immediate natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. A home’s location, materials, size, design, and construction affect the degree to which it contributes to climate change, exposes its occupants to climate-change-related hazards and financial risks, and protects its residents from such hazards. Many strategies are available to both communities and individuals to mitigate the risks posed by climate change and to increase resilience to future disasters.

This article examines the ramifications of housing for climate change, followed by relevant climate-related HUD initiatives.

Climate Change Consequences

The consensus of the international scientific community is that human activity, primarily through greenhouse gas emissions resulting from burning fossil fuels, has contributed to the warming of the planet over the past century.2 The sweeping effects of climate change include disruptions to "human health, agriculture and food security, water supply, transportation, energy, ecosystems, and others."3 Climate change can stress and damage infrastructure systems and ecosystems, make areas less hospitable to traditional economic activities such as farming and tourism, and alter energy efficiencies and demands in ways that create a vicious cycle.4 Climate change has increased the frequency and severity of natural disasters, whose aftermaths have also become increasingly costly. Among the many consequences of climate change, the United States has experienced diminishing water quality and supplies; extreme heat and droughts that have produced longer fire seasons and larger wildfires; and rising sea levels that, along with coastal storms, increase the dangers associated with storm surges, flooding, and coastal erosion.5 Lower-income and other marginalized populations tend to be the groups most vulnerable to these changes and the least able to protect themselves and recover from their effects.6 These groups also bear the greatest burdens of climate change mitigation policies and practices.7

How Does Housing Affect Climate Change?

Housing relates to climate change in two ways. First, the location, construction, and energy consumption of homes directly affect their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Second, where housing is located and how it is constructed offer residents varying degrees of exposure to (and protection from) climate-related risks and hazards.

The manufacturing, transportation, and building processes of the residential construction industry constitute approximately 10 percent of total global energy consumption, mostly from nonrenewable sources.8 Energy use for those homes, once built, accounts for 19 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, an amount equivalent to that of the sixth-largest emitting country on Earth.9 As Krista Egger, vice president of Building Resilient Futures at Enterprise Community Partners, says, "People may not be aware [of it], but when we use fossil fuels in our homes [for example, by cooking or heating with natural gas]… we are contributing to climate change." The good news, according to Egger, is that "it’s powerful to know that if you live in a home, you can make a difference" in the pace of climate change by making adjustments in your everyday home life to use less energy, both through small acts such as adjusting or automating a thermostat and through larger changes such as converting from gas-fueled appliances to electric appliances.10

The location of housing relative to residents’ work and other destinations and the modes of transportation required and available to make those trips can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.11 Research shows that "low-density suburban environments generate more emissions than compact environments in the same city, and the more a city is marked by sprawl overall, the more emissions it generates."12 This relationship is complex, however. According to Jones and Kammen, "Population density does correlate with lower HCF [household carbon footprints] when controlling for income and household size," but mean emissions increase until a population density of 3,000 persons per square mile and then decline as density increases until leveling out at densities of 50,000 persons per square mile.13 Across metropolitan areas, the reduced emissions per household in high-density areas often are more than offset by higher emissions in the lower-density, largely suburban areas of the same metropolitan areas.14 Evidence suggests that increasing the share of multifamily housing and pursuing efforts to densify housing could net significant reductions in emissions. University of California, Berkeley professor Daniel Kammen says, "We now know how to build much greener housing, whether it is singlefamily or multifamily, but the real key is [to] link it smartly to public transit — you can dramatically change the carbon footprint and make peoples’ lives better."15 Transit-oriented development can combine greater density, energy-efficient construction, and reduced car dependence to reduce energy usage and emissions.16 Yet zoning, regulatory barriers, and neighborhood opposition remain impediments to denser housing, including transit-oriented development.17 Trends such as increasing telework and the unaffordability of housing in cities are also reinforcing residential patterns in which more people live in less dense areas.18

The way housing is constructed can affect its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Offsite construction can streamline processes in ways that decrease overall energy consumption during construction and produce tighter building envelopes that reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool homes (see also the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of Evidence Matters).19 For onsite construction, using local materials and engaging in practices that reuse or otherwise recycle demolition and construction waste can lower energy consumed in the transport of materials. Using materials that store carbon dioxide and that have clean production processes can also reduce the climate impact of housing construction.20 Because concrete production emits greenhouse gases, alternative materials such as quarry dust, demolition waste, copper slag, steel slag, and fly ash can cut construction emissions.21 Other strategies, such as extending the life of a building, also reduce overall emissions.22

Various building methods and materials can make homes more or less energy efficient, and, by extension, generate more or less greenhouse gas emissions (see also the Spring 2017 issue of Evidence Matters). In addition to tight building envelopes, buildings that maximize inulation and passive solar gains can be more efficient. Homes built to Passive House design standards combine these features with a heat recovery system to minimize heat loss while maintaining comfortable indoor conditions.23 Innovations in wall assemblies such as panels, double-stud walls, and optimal value engineering framing retain structural soundness while providing higher insulation value, thereby keeping homes warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.24

Another route to reducing the contribution of housing to climate change is to convert nonelectric power sources to electric for air cooling, clothes drying, and especially water and air heating and cooking, which remain fossil-fueled to a high degree.25 Shifting to electric power for all household systems is an important component of a broader shift to electrification in commercial and residential buildings, transportation, and industry that could reduce fossil fuel combustion emissions by 41 percent from 2005 levels even without reducing carbon in power generation and by as much as 74 percent with power system decarbonization, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.26 For example, accounting for emissions from electricity generation, natural gas combustion emissions, and methane and refrigerant leaks, an electric heat pump offers a reduced 20-year greenhouse gas effect of 53 to 67 percent, including a 38 to 53 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, compared with a gas furnace.27 The potential reduction in emissions is greatest if the new electric equipment is energy efficient, and the shift will be more cost effective if the equipment is incorporated into all new construction rather than retrofitted at a later date.28

Renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic systems or geothermal energy accessed by heat pumps, can also power homes. To support the adoption of solar and other clean energy sources, the Biden administration has invoked the Defense Production Act to authorize the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to expand domestic production of solar panel parts, building insulation, and heat pumps. The administration seeks to expand solar manufacturing capacity to levels that would support more than 3.3 million homes to convert to solar energy sources each year.29 "Every bit of housing, whether it is public or private, should have both solar power and heat pumps moving forward" with this push, Kammen says.30 Homes that pair onsite renewable energy production with energy-efficient design and appliances can produce as much energy as they use over the course of a year; these are known as net-zero energy homes.31

An aerial view of a building under construction with green mountains in the background.
For areas affected by natural disasters, such as St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, HUD’s CDBG-DR, CDBG-MIT, and other federal funding streams foster rebuilding that increases resilience to storms. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Flickr

Housing relates to climate change not just as a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions but also as a factor that both exposes us to and protects us from climate-related risks, depending on where it is sited and how it is constructed. Although climate change poses increased risks in all locations, some areas face particularly acute increases in danger. Residential development often has occurred in especially vulnerable places. For example, approximately 5.7 million U.S. residences are located in areas at risk of flooding and millions more in areas at risk of wildfire.32 More than 40 percent of Americans live in a county that experienced a climate related disaster in 2021.33 A 2021 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report showed that minority and low income populations are more likely to live in areas with the highest level of climate-related disasters and conditions and therefore are more vulnerable to climate-related disasters. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in 2021, the United States experienced 20 natural disasters that cost at least $1 billion each and $145 billion in total. These high numbers reflect a long-term trend: after adjusting for inflation, the United States experienced more than twice the number of billion-dollar disasters in the 2010s than in the 2000s.34

Another slow-moving disaster rooted in climate change is the historic 23-year drought in the Colorado River Basin and critical drought conditions and low reservoir levels throughout the western United States, where, as of June 2022, roughly 93 percent of land is experiencing drought or abnormally dry conditions and approximately 70 percent is experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions. Development patterns that promote or depend on high-intensity water consumption in low-resource, arid environments are increasingly unsustainable in such conditions. Regional collaboration and planning among state and local governments, Tribal nations, and communities, along with strategic investments and conservation, are necessary to help these areas adapt and increase their resilience.35

Research shows that renters are more physically vulnerable to disasters, in terms of both the neighborhoods in which they live and the buildings they occupy. Renters are disproportionately located in neighborhoods that have experienced disinvestment, have neglected infrastructure, and are in climate-vulnerable areas. They also are disproportionately living in older, poorly maintained buildings that are less able to withstand disasters. From 2015 to 2017, hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires, among other disasters, damaged more than a half-million units of rental housing, displacing 324,000 renters from their homes. Renters also may lack the resources to respond to and recover from disasters. Furthermore, as Brennan et al. write, "The intersection of economic marginalization, racial discrimination, social isolation, poor health, and legal exclusion creates cumulative vulnerability and means that both the immediate consequences of disasters and long-term obstacles to recovery are particularly acute for low-income renters of color."36

Just as homes, home construction, and housing locations can be modified to reduce the contributions of households to climate change, says Egger, "[t]here are strategies to make homes better prepared to withstand the impact of climate change. For instance, if you are in an area threatened by floods or sea level rise, you can elevate your home above baseline flood level to prevent damage or you can construct a roof out of noncombustible material so that it won’t burn in the event of a wildfire. There are so many strategies that can be taken."37 Nature-based solutions that people can implement at the household or community level include green infrastructure, which uses natural features such as green space and planted vegetation to help manage stormwater runoff, and blue infrastructure, which uses ponds, wetlands, and other water to cool spaces and collect stormwater (see "Resiliency at Work"). Building owners can install rainwater collection systems, install vegetated roofs, plant trees, and replace hard surfaces with porous ones to aid in cooling and water management. Buildings can also be sited, landscaped, and oriented to optimize sun and wind exposure for temperature control. In cold climates, insulation and double-glazed, low-emissivity windows in homes can reduce heat transfer to outside.38 Some individuals will be able to afford to implement these strategies themselves, with incentives, or with compensating benefits such as reduced insurance premiums, but government programs and subsidies likely will be needed for these strategies to reach the lower-income people who are often at greatest risk.

HUD’s Climate Change Opportunity

HUD has numerous responsibilities that could influence greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. HUD has an extensive portfolio of assisted housing and properties with mortgage insurance and establishes the national code for manufactured housing. HUD also funds disaster recovery efforts and community development infrastructure, which offers the agency an opportunity to promote mitigation and resilience against the consequences of climate change. These roles allow HUD to contribute meaningfully to the diffuse challenge of climate change.39

Photo of a crane lowering stormwater equipment into a hole in the middle of a street with multistory buildings on one side.
HUD’s Rebuild by Design competition encouraged communities to plan for resilience. One of the winning projects seeks to improve storm surge management along the Hudson River in New Jersey. Rebuild by Design Hudson River Project

HUD’s portfolio of about 4.5 million public and assisted housing units generate an estimated 13.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually. Approximately 1.2 million of these units are public housing units over which HUD has direct influence.40 The department spends $6.9 billion each year on utilities across its portfolio, an amount representing 14 percent of its overall budget.41 Reducing energy usage in HUD-assisted housing can reduce these costs for HUD and benefit households paying all or a portion of their utility bills.

HUD also invests Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds in community infrastructure, including $89.8 billion since 1993 in CDBG-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) grants — of which a subset is the CDBG Mitigation program (CDBG-MIT). Since 2019, HUD has granted more than $16 billion in CDBG-MIT funds to 22 states and HUD’s Rebuild by Design competition encouraged communities to plan for resilience. One of the winning projects seeks to improve storm surge management along the Hudson River in New Jersey.local governments. One CDBG-MIT project, the Louisiana Watershed Initiative, seeks to end unsustainable cycles of disaster and recovery through flood risk reduction. Using $1.2 billion in CDBG-MIT-funds, the state of Louisiana is shifting to a watershed-based floodplain management and mitigation approach. The state will proactively collect data to understand, model, and project flood risks and address them by shifting development patterns to reduce risk, educating the public about flood risk, and adopting regional coordination of watershed management.42

In 2013, HUD’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force launched the Rebuild by Design competition, an innovative initiative to promote resilience-oriented planning and design strategies in the region affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The competition awarded CDBG-DR funds to seven winning proposals while engaging all participants in resiliency planning and design.43 One of the winning projects focused on protecting people and property from storm surges and high tides along the Hudson River. The project combines hard infrastructure, including floodwalls and seawalls, and soft infrastructure, such as berms and levees, to serve as a physical barrier to water on the coastline. It also improves stormwater management with green and grey infrastructure, including green roofs, bioretention basins, and swales. The state of New Jersey received a $230 million award from HUD to execute the project.44 Building on the success of the Rebuild by Design Competition, HUD funded the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), making $1 billion available to applicants in 48 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC, as well as 17 local governments affected by natural disasters. As with Rebuild by Design, NDRC encouraged data-driven, community-led approaches to rebuilding so communities can better withstand future disasters.45

HUD can also influence energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in manufactured housing, because it sets the national building code for this construction. In consultation with HUD, DOE recently has updated energy standards for some manufactured housing that will cut energy use and emissions and save residents money over the life cycle of the unit through reduced utility costs.46 Any HUD program that funds investments in new housing or community infrastructure, such as the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, can incorporate climate mitigation and adaptation measures.

HUD’s Climate Action Plan

Carlos Martín of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University notes that integrating climate mitigation and adaptation into housing policy can be difficult or even overwhelming, particularly when considering persistent, pressing challenges such as affordability.47 Nevertheless, HUD is acting to elevate climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience alongside other important goals such as affordability and fair housing. In keeping with the Biden administration’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, HUD and other departments are pursuing a governmentwide approach to addressing climate change. In November 2021, HUD announced a climate action plan to "implement a broad approach to the climate crisis that reduces climate pollution; increases resilience to the impacts of climate change; protects public health; delivers environmental justice; and spurs well-paying union jobs and economic growth."48 The plan has three goals: increasing climate resilience, reducing greenhouse gases, and pursuing environmental justice.49

Increasing Climate Resilience: HUD and Climate Adaptation
HUD, through CDBG-DR, has long assumed a major role in rebuilding efforts following disasters. Increasingly, these efforts have aimed not just to rebuild, but to rebuild in ways that will help communities better withstand future disasters. Being forward looking and resilience centered during disaster recovery may present communities with an opportunity to address slow-onset climate hazards, such as permafrost melt, sea level rise, drought, and extreme heat, that have not traditionally been declared disasters with accompanying funding but nevertheless are very costly disruptions.50

HUD can also help individuals and communities adapt to climate-related threats by collecting and sharing data about buildingand community-level climate risk; conducting and sharing research on the effectiveness of adaptation and resilience measures; assessing climate-related financial risk and incorporating it into asset management, underwriting standards, and lending terms and conditions; and adopting stronger resilience standards, such as flood resilience, for HUD-assisted and Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured properties.51 HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD) has created a Community Resilience Toolkit to help recipients of grants from CPD programs, which include CDBG-DR, CDBG-MIT, and NDRC, identify and address climate-related hazards in their communities. The toolkit offers guidance on potential strategies and activities, many of which are eligible for CPD funding. The toolkit covers inland flooding, wildfires, drought, sea level rise, and coastal storms, among other climate-related threats. Since the 2016 HUD regulation "Modernizing HUD’s Consolidated Planning Process to Narrow the Digital Divide and Increase Resilience to Natural Hazards," jurisdictions have been required to consider how to increase their resilience to climate-related hazards in their Consolidated Plan.52 Jurisdictions can complete some resilience activities at the planning level or on a building-by-building basis, whereas others involve changes to community infrastructure.

Flooding. Climate change may cause inland flooding — resulting from heavy rains, rapid snowmelt, runoff, overwhelmed stormwater management systems, or failing dams or levees — to become more frequent and happen in areas that have not previously been prone to flooding. The National Flood Insurance Program’s National Flood Hazard Layer database can help homeowners and communities assess their flood risk. At the community level, planning can limit or exclude development in hazardous places and incentivize development in less flood-prone areas. Policymakers can encourage new development and rehabilitation through incentives to maximize permeable surfaces and better manage stormwater. Developers can construct individual buildings above the floodplain, and the utilities; water heaters; and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in existing structures can be moved to a position above the floodplain. Building owners can also install sump pumps and backflow prevention devices.53

Front view of a single-story house with a car port on the side.
With support from a National Disaster Resilience Competition grant, many residents of Isle de Jean Charles, which has suffered coastal land loss from saltwater intrusion, subsidence, sea level rise, and hurricanes, relocated to a more sustainable area that they named "The New Isle." Louisiana Office of Community Development

Wildfires. The increasing frequency of storms with lightning, hot temperatures, and drought conditions is increasing the likelihood of frequent and severe wildfires and a longer wildfire season.54 One study predicts that by the middle of the 21st century, areas in the wester United States may see as much as a sixfold increase in the number of weeks that they could be at risk of large fires.55 Even as the risk from fire has increased, the number of residences in fire-prone areas has increased dramatically since 1990.56 In addition to destroying properties, wildfires pollute the air and can increase erosion and flooding risks.57 Communities can take several actions to reduce their risk from wildfires. As with flooding, planners can reduce or restrict the construction of housing in high-risk areas. Individual homeowners can use fire-resistant materials such as composite shingles and brick siding, install ember-proof vents, remove combustible vegetation near the home, and keep yards free of debris.58

Drought. Extended periods with little or no precipitation can lead to water shortages, reduced soil moisture, poor water quality, and increased risk of wildfires and erosion. Although droughts can occur anywhere in the United States, they are a particular threat in the Southwest, Great Plains, and Southeast regions. Individuals and communities can learn about drought indicators in their area from NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System. Communities can explore the diversification of their water supply and develop conservation measures. They can set criteria for activating voluntary or mandatory conservation periods during which nonessential water uses are limited. Communities can also adopt incentives for household conservation efforts such as rain barrels, greywater systems, and water-saving appliances and fixtures.

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Storms. Sea level rise — resulting from melting glaciers and ice sheets caused by climate warming — and the increasing frequency of coastal storms threaten properties and ecosystems in coastal areas. These areas face higher tides, storm surges, and flooding, which, in turn, can exacerbate coastal erosion. Storms bring high winds that can cause damage directly or through the debris they carry. As with floods and fires, policymakers can discourage future development in high-risk areas. Coastlines can be better protected through structural interventions, such as sea walls and bulkheads, and nonstructural interventions, such as wetland protection programs.59 Buyout programs can reclaim property that has been or might be developed and instead use it for water management or to remove homes from vulnerable sites.60 As with inland flooding, buildings and utilities can be built or elevated above projected water heights or with open or deep foundations.61

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: HUD and Climate Mitigation
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a goal of HUD’s Climate Action Plan, HUD "must significantly improve the energy performance of HUD-assisted and FHA-insured assets while scaling up deployment of renewable energy… by increasing investments in climate and energy retrofits of existing housing, incentivizing green building design in new construction, and proactively advancing climate mitigation and adaptation strategies across HUD programs."62 HUD also seeks to create incentives for land uses that reduce dependence on cars, such as transit-oriented development.63

HUD has implemented several programs to promote energy efficiency, including voluntary, incentive-based programs as well as mandatory ones. The Renew300 Initiative encouraged managers of federally assisted housing properties to adopt solar and renewable energy, resulting in a commitment from 80 owners to install renewable energy sources. Another incentive-based program, the Green Mortgage Insurance Premium, encourages multifamily housing properties with FHA insurance to commit to a green building standard with an ENERGY STAR® score of 75 or better and to benchmarking utilities. Benchmarking utilities, tracking usage statistics, and committing to reduced energy consumption are central to the Multifamily Better Buildings Challenge. Ninety-two partners joined the challenge, and as of 2020, 70 percent had successfully implemented benchmarking for more than 400,000 units and facilitated more than 21 trillion British thermal units in energy savings.64

Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversions offer another opportunity to build for mitigation. RAD projects are required to conduct a capital needs assessment that analyzes energy and water-saving systems and to adopt the most efficient, financially feasible option with a minimum requirement that they use ENERGY STAR® and WaterSense® products. HUD encourages new construction in the RAD, Choice Neighborhoods, Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, and CDBG-DR programs to meet or exceed green building standards such as ENERGY STAR® for Multifamily High-Rise, ENERGY STAR® for New Homes, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, and the National Green Building Standard.65

Pursuing Environmental Justice
The goal of pursuing environmental justice runs through every aspect of the Climate Action Plan. Recognizing that communities of color, low-income communities, and historically underserved communities disproportionately face climate-related risks and hazards, are often least able to afford mitigation strategies and actions, and could be negatively affected by mitigation efforts (for example, escalating rents and home prices in areas that undergo mitigation improvements), HUD is targeting investments to support these communities with a goal of directing at least 40 percent of federal climate and clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities — consistent with the Biden administration’s governmentwide Justice40 Initiative.66 As HUD supports climate adaptation and mitigation efforts, environmental justice — "ensuring equal protection from environmental and health hazards and providing equal and meaningful opportunity to participate in the decision-making process to achieve a healthy environment" — will be a guiding principle.67

Broadly, HUD program participants and grantees are obligated to affirmatively further fair housing, acting to overcome patterns of segregation and remove barriers to opportunity for protected classes.68 As part of the Climate Action Plan, in the coming years, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity will identify and share guidance on best practices for community land use, such as zoning reforms and transit-oriented development, and on equitable implementation of disaster recovery and resilience funding. The office will also develop online resources and toolkits on climate resilience and environmental justice and work with HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research and Home Innovation Research Labs to develop residential resilience guidelines for homebuilders and developers.69

HUD has identified specific initiatives to promote both environmental justice and climate resilience. HUD will designate resources to provide access to data, technical support, and funding to help Tribal communities build resilient housing and infrastructure (see "HUD Supports Mitigation and Resilience in Tribal Communities"). Consistent with the Section 3 program, HUD grantees should recruit low- and very low-income people and HUD-assisted residents for jobs supporting HUD funded projects, including the green job opportunities needed for resilience projects. HUD can also deploy an equity lens to community engagement and environmental review processes and practices — for example, to ensure that people with limited English proficiency have access to HUD programs and personnel. Finally, HUD can promote the development of affordable housing in areas with fewer climate and environmental hazards and address longstanding environmental hazards, such as lead contamination, that disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color.70


"There is an urgency for acting on climate change in terms of housing given the limited time we have to make a difference. We need transformative new investment to upgrade housing, particularly housing for low-income residents, to meet higher standards of energy efficiency," says Egger.71 HUD can lead by example through changes to the housing over which it has direct or indirect influence and through producing and funding research focusing on climate mitigation and adaptation for housing and communities. Communities and property owners can immediately adopt a number of mitigation and adaptation activities, large and small, to slow climate change, prevent the worst of its impacts, and move toward a more resilient and sustainable future. "We have the start," says Kammen. "We just have to do it."72

Related Information

HUD Supports Mitigation and Resilience in Tribal Communities

  1. Greenhouse gases are gases, primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Major sources of greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel and other combustion; methane emissions from gas fields, and livestock; leaks and releases of hydrofluorocarbons and other refrigerants and chemicals. See "Greenhouse Gas Emissions," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website ( Accessed 15 July 2022.
  2. "The Causes of Climate Change," NASA website ( Accessed 18 July 2022.
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  41. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 2021. "Climate Action Plan," 5.
  42. "CDBG-MIT Action Plan," Louisiana Watershed Initiative website ( Accessed 2 June 2022; Office of Community Development, State of Louisiana. 2019. "Master Action Plan for the Utilization of Community Development Block Grant Mitigation Funds (CDBG-MIT)," 9–11.
  43. Office of Community Development, State of Louisiana 2019; "Rebuild by Design," U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website ( Accessed 2 June 2022
  44. "Rebuild by Design — Hudson River," State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Climate Resilience Design and Engineering website ( Accessed 10 June 2022.
  45. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 2014. "National Disaster Resilience Competition."
  46. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy. 2022. "Energy Conservation Program: Energy Conservation Standards for Manufactured Housing," Federal Register 87:104, 32735.
  47. Martín.
  48. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 2021. "HUD Releases Agency Cllimate Action Plan." 17 November press release.
  49. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 2021. "Climate Action Plan," 7.
  50. Ibid., 13.
  51. "Climate Resilience and Adaptation," U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website ( Accessed 31 May 2021.
  52. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 2022. "Community Resilience Toolkit."
  53. Ibid., 14–7.
  54. Ibid., 18.
  55. Caitlyn Kennedy. 2015. "Risk of very large fires could increase sixfold by mid-century in the US."
  56. Nathan Mietkiewicz, Jennifer K. Balch, Tania Schoennagel, Stefan Leyk, Lise A. St. Denis, and Bethany A. Bradley. 2020. "In the Line of Fire: Consequences of Human-Ignited Wildfires to Homes in the U.S. (1992–2015)," Fire 3:50, 1.
  57. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2022, 18.
  58. "How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfires," National Fire Protection Association website ( Accessed 1 June 2022.
  59. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2022, 10–3.
  60. Alex Greer, Sherri Brokopp Binder, and Elyse Zavar. 2022. "From Hazard Mitigation to Climate Adaptation: A Review of Home Buyout Program Literature," Housing Policy Debate 32.
  61. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2022, 10–3.
  62. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2021, 22.
  63. Ibid.
  64. Ibid., 23.
  65. Ibid., 24.
  66. Bezgrebelna, 18; Shalanda Young, Brenda Mallory, and Gina McCarthy. 2021. "The Path to Achieving Justice40," The White House, 20 July; "HUD Releases Agency Climate Action Plan."
  67. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2021, 32.
  68. Ibid.
  69. "Climate Action: Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity," U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website ( Accessed 3 June 2022.
  70. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 2021, 32–6.
  71. Interview with Krista Egger.
  72. Interview with Daniel Kammen.


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