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Cooperative Adaptation Strategies for Affordable Housing in New York City (CASA)


To what extent do diverse housing forms and tenure conditions challenge adaptation responses? And to what extent can cooperative housing, finance, and governance help disadvantaged communities adapt to floods and promote a healthy environment? Historically, low-income housing, especially public housing for racialized minorities, is often sited in less desirable, flood prone areas. In addition, federal funding for post-disaster response and recovery typically favors single-family housing, challenging the use of floodplain buyouts for denser cities with land tenure arrangements in multifamily housing that characterizes most of where people of color live. Even policy, resource, and planning interventions with good intentions can exacerbate these injustices, rendering low-income residents more vulnerable to displacement or relocation to places with worse social, livelihood, and environmental conditions. Silos among researchers and practitioners working on climate adaptation (who stem mostly from environmental fields) and those working in housing and advocacy (who have backgrounds in community and economic development) impede the design of just and ecologically adaptive housing strategies.

This project explores the typologies of low-income housing form and land tenure in New York City’s most flood vulnerable neighborhoods. We explore how well existing government policies and funding programs support the kinds of housing found in such neighborhoods, and the challenges that residents have experienced trying to adapt to climate risks and disasters. After identifying policy gaps, we compile existing collective ownership and governance strategies from around the United States and internationally to examine the extent to which they may be effective in overcoming the barriers and needs of New York’s diverse housing and tenure typologies. A central goal of our project is to connect the fields of housing and climate adaptation both in academia and among NYC practitioners. We plan to convene an advisory group comprising housing advocacy and community organizations, academics, and government staff.

This research, funded by the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, is conducted in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund and the New York Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice. Collaborators include Ms. Lauren Wang (NYC MOCEJ), Ms. Kate Boicourt and Ms. Natalie Snider (EDF), Dr. Sara Bronin and Dr. Rebecca Morgenstern Brenner (Cornell), Dr. Zachary Lamb (UC Berkeley), Dr. Jason Spicer (University of Toronto), and Dr. Robert Olshansky (University of Illinois Urbana Champaign).


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