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In 2009, the residential and commercial building sector was responsible for more than 50 percent of total annual U.S. energy consumption, 74 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption, and 39 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. There has been a growing movement to encourage "green buildings"- those that generally use water, energy and materials more efficiently than conventional buildings, and utilize design, construction and siting features to reduce their negative environmental impacts. In an effort to address these energy problems, Columbia Law School's Center for Climate Change Law has undertaken an effort to draft a model municipal ordinance on green buildings. This article explains their proposed model together with detailed commentaries on its features, the rationale behind the choices it embodies, the associated legal issues, and various optional add-ons that municipalities may wish to consider.
This report offers evidence as to why rent control is a sensible and necessary strategy to address the renter crisis, describes the benefits of rent control, and shares policy recommendations to bring rent control to our communities.
Communities of color continue to be excluded from homeownership, a crucial wealth building vehicle for families in the U.S. With concerns about gentrification and displacement rising in many areas, homeownership rates are not equally distributed along racial and ethnic lines, and people of color do not access mortgages at equal rates as their White counterparts. We used home mortgage data collected under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act to provide insight into lending patterns to communities of color in California and the three cities of Fresno, Oakland, and Long Beach – chosen for their demographic and geographic diversity. People of color are largely underrepresented in loans received across California, and especially in the urban areas of Long Beach and Oakland. Overall, communities of color do not access home purchase loans at rates comparable to non-Hispanic Whites. Further, home purchase loans in low- to moderate-income census tracts across California vastly exceeded loans to low- to moderate-income borrowers – creating what seems to be a statistical portrait of gentrification. As our demographics continue to shift, our economic prosperity will increasingly depend on people of color having expanding access and opportunity to reach their full potential.
Building electrification means eliminating use of fossil fuels for functions like heating and cooking and replacing gas appliances with alternatives that use electricity. In California, 25 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions come from the buildings we live and work in. As our electric grid gets steadily cleaner, building electrification can play a big role in fighting climate change. Electrifying our homes also has major health benefits. Burning gas releases nitrogen oxides and particulates, which can have serious health consequences. While building electrification has promising benefits for residents and for the state, it must be pursued equitably— ensuring that environmental and social justice communities can benefit, rather than being left with polluting and increasingly expensive gas appliances. It will require intentional policymaking and a planned transition for environmental and social justice communities to gain access to the major benefits of electrification, including cleaner air, healthier homes, good jobs and empowered workers, and greater access to affordable clean energy and energy efficiency to reduce monthly energy bills.
This report contends that creating and preserving diverse transit-oriented neighborhoods is sound public policy that would favorably impact households and regions on multiple fronts, resulting in: a broader range of housing opportunities, greater transportation choice, better environmental outcomes and stronger family and neighborhood economies. There is no single silver bullet for creating and preserving such neighborhoods, however. Promoting and preserving diverse transit oriented neighborhoods requires policies that address housing, land use and transportation, experienced practitioners in several sectors, tools geared to promote transportation-oriented development (TOD )and affordability, and flexible financing.
The pace of recovery following the foreclosure and financial crises continues to differ across racial and ethnic groups. This is especially clear across mortgage lending in California. Banks, lenders, and policymakers must understand this phenomenon and create better products and policies to address this gaping problem. Decades of discriminatory practices by mortgage lenders, known as “redlining,” produced a shameful legacy that still all too frequently determines who gets access to America’s central vehicle for wealth creation: homeownership. As a result, people of color continue to experience far lower rates of homeownership than whites and the benefits of homeownership rarely trickle down to our nation’s fastest growing demographic. People of color will account for the vast majority of household growth in the U.S. for the next 40 years, yet our housing policy fails to accommodate this growth. Inadequate access to sustainable mortgage lending dims prospects of a bright economic future. Eliminating barriers to access these loans can ensure that our housing market nurtures wealth creation for all Americans.
The southern suburbs of Chicago (the Southland) grew up in the nineteenth century with a dual identity: as residential communities from which people rode the train to downtown jobs and as industrial centers that rose around the nexus of the nation’s freight rail network. Over the last two generations, many of these communities endured economic hardship as residents and businesses left for sprawling new suburbs and international pressures eroded the industrial base. The environment of the Southland and the entire Chicago region suffered as farmland was paved over at ever accelerating rates, vehicle miles traveled climbed steadily, and thousands of acres of prime industrial land decayed into brown fields.
The City of Baltimore commissioned the Center for Community Progress to evaluate the City's the Vacants to Value (V2V) program and make recommendations for future program directions. The V2V program is a multifaceted strategy to use code enforcement and related tools to reduce the number of vacant properties in the city and put them back into productive use; or, as stated in the City’s Request for Proposals, “to address conditions of blight and abandonment and to help realize Mayor Rawlings Blake’s 10 Year Plan to grow the city by 10,000 households by 2020.” It was designed to be “a market-based and data driven, geographically focused program that employs seven strategies to eliminate blight and strengthen neighborhoods.”
Planning policies aimed at reducing vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) combined with growing consumer demand for walkable, transit-rich neighborhoods have led to increased development interest in location-efficient neighborhood - i.e., those places associated with the lowest transportation costs. Location-efficient places are characterized by high levels of accessibility to jobs and services that enable residents to drive less either by making shorter trips or by shifting trips to transit, walking, and bicycling.
Discussion of housing affordability usually revolves around home prices alone, failing to account for the varying costs of transportation in different locations. Although frequently overlooked, research has shown that these costs typically represent a household’s second largest expenditure, in some cases consuming as much as 30% of household income. The lack of clear information about the true costs and tradeoffs associated with housing location motivates inefficient development decisions and has helped spur the “drive ’til you qualify” phenomenon, which describes the movement of households away from the city center in search of lower cost housing. In the last several years, the dramatic increase in foreclosure rates, often concentrated in remote exurbs, and the equally dramatic spike in gasoline prices around the country have revealed the vulnerability of households that choose locations based on an incomplete and often misleading understanding of the true costs.