Climate Change and Housing

The impacts of climate change are felt most acutely by those struggling the most, especially people experiencing homelessness who are often exposed to the elements.

Since many on the street suffer from poor health conditions, the health risks related to weather extremes are even greater.Without access to air conditioning or drinking water, unhoused people are particularly susceptible to heat stress and even heat stroke.

Besides making life tougher for those experiencing homelessness, climate change can add to the population of homelessness by displacing thousands of families when floods and wildfires destroy homes and decimate entire communities.These events have a disproportionate effect on low-income families and communities of color where resources and support services are often scarce.

Housing California works with multi-sector partners to advance legislation that not only creates affordable housing but also encourages the development of communities that minimize our carbon footprint and protect the environment. We seek opportunities to leverage established state programs and shift revenue streams towards evidence-based housing solutions that mitigate the effects of climate change.

Below we provide a basic overview of two valuable approaches to housing development that offer viable paths towards sustainable, eco-friendly living for all Californians.

Transit-oriented Development and Climate Change

Most households on modest budgets own a car, usually an older, higher-polluting one. Presented with the opportunity to move close to high-quality transit, sell their car, and ride a bus or light rail, many people with modest incomes are likely to jump at the chance, because a car represents a significant financial burden to them.

Likewise, transit-oriented development (TOD), which is more affordable to people on modest budgets, can help prevent the displacement that occurs when transit — a desirable amenity — causes rents and property values to increase in the surrounding area. Research has shown that displacement of low-income residents robs transit systems of core riders and deters efforts to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG). Moreover, displaced residents often relocate to areas with cheaper housing at the outskirts of metropolitan areas, forcing them to rely on older, high-polluting cars to access jobs and services. This means investments in TOD affordable to lower-income households will give the state the biggest GHG benefit. It will also make the most of the state’s transit investments, ensuring ridership for decades to come because these developments must remain affordable for at least 55 years.

The Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program (AHSC)

In 2014, the Legislature and governor approved the AHSC Program, which provides investment from cap-and-trade revenues to affordable homes and other components of sustainable communities, including bike and walking improvements, transit, and planning. The Program receives an annual continuous appropriation from cap-and-trade revenues. To date, 58 developments have been funded, creating 4,500 new affordable homes. Each year, these developments will remove 8,000 vehicles from our roads and reduce 1.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over 30 years. Housing California continues to participate in discussions around the administration of the funds.

Read this 2017 policy brief to learn more.