Housing Policy and Climate Mitigation
In California, about 40% of GhG emissions comes from transportation, the bulk of that from gasoline and diesel-burning vehicles.The carbon footprint of our auto-centric urban planning is even greater when we count oil refining and upstream emissions outside the state. Denser forms of development reduce the dependence on personal vehicles, reducing travel time and costs, the consumption of oil and gasoline, and the planet-warming
Even as California has made great progress in cleaning up its electricity grid, transportation emissions were on an upward trend prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In some counties, as much as two-thirds of emissions are from auto emissions. Building more climate SMART housing in the right places can mitigate climate impacts and reduce housing costs and inequities. But in order to do this we need to change the way we build and eliminate the stigma around multi family homes. As we encourage and engage in equitable, fire and flood-safe infill development, it is imperative that we think about how we can maximize the benefits that we’re getting from our land. We need to build more infill housing in existing urban areas and that denser housing and all housing—needs to include a healthy amount of green infrastructure including: bioswales, carbon sequestering trees that provide shadow and help regulate micro climates and mitigate the urban heat island effect, native plants that can provide habitat, and other nature-based solutions to climate risks.
Critical Actions to Take Now
Increase density within existing communities in non Fire Hazard Severity Zones and away from flood zones.
By building more homes in already established urban areas, we avoid paving over trees and habitat that serve as heat sinks and carbon banks, all of which provide high-value climate benefits. It is critical to support growth in safe infill locations and streamline the permitting process when appropriate, while still allowing for a public process, requiring environmental review, and rewarding jurisdictions that meet housing goals.
Prepare Communities for Climate Impacts and Require Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Resilience in Future Developments.
Local jurisdictions must be better equipped to help communities struck by natural disasters rebuild and respond rapidly and inclusively. Housing should be built in a manner that protects current and future communities. Integrating green infrastructure into new development and redevelopment is a necessary investment in climate resilience and public health that will reduce energy consumption and the costs of extreme heat and flooding to cities and health care systems. Cities should require developers to integrate green infrastructure into development and the public right-of-way adjacent to developments at a level that exceeds water quality mandates. It is critical to implement improvements to move or protect critical public assets threatened by sea-level rise or rising groundwater as well as require and incentivize green infrastructure in future developments and, when possible, use green infrastructure as a preferred alternative. When applicable it is also beneficial to consider permit streamlining for new housing that exceeds current green infrastructure requirements.