Archive | Articles RSS for this section

Banking on Vacancy: Homelessness and Real Estate Speculation

A report by Picture the Homeless. To read the report in PDF format please click HERE.

Also, check out Picture the Homeless blog to read their fascinating stories and updates. Please click HERE to get to their blog.

posted on Thursday, November 15th 2012

“New Reality” Grips America

Originally published by Architecture 2030

Hurricane Sandy’s path of destruction along the Jersey Shore.

$9.2 Trillion At Risk in the U.S. by 2070

The total value of assets and infrastructure exposed to coastal flooding in 136 global port cities of over one million people is $3 trillion. The total value of exposed assets is expected to increase to $35 trillion by 2070 due to climate change, subsidence and demographic and economic shifts.

The two countries with the most port assets at risk in 2070 are China and the U.S. with $10.8 trillion and $9.2 trillion respectively.

These estimates do not include the most recent assessments of sea level rise, which have increased since Architecture 2030 released its 2007 study examining coastal inundation scenarios for over 100 communities in the U.S. The findings of that report were clear: We are a Nation Under Siege. See the report and mapping here.

Five of the Top 10 Global Cities Vulnerable to
Coastal Flooding are Found in the U.S.

According to an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study published in 2008, five of the top 10 global cities of over one million people with assets and infrastructure exposed to coastal flooding are found in the U.S. – Miami, Greater New York, New Orleans, Tampa-St Petersburg and Virginia Beach – with a current exposure of more than $1 trillion.

Note: Nicholls, R. J. et al. (2008), “Ranking Port Cities with High Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Extremes: Exposure Estimates”, OECD Environment Working Papers, No. 1, OECD Publishing. Exposure is in the form of buildings, transport infrastructure, and other long-lived assets. The unit for monetary amounts is 2001 US dollars (USD).

New York, NY. 3.0-meters Sea Level Rise.

Miami Beach, FL. 1.0-meter Sea Level Rise

New Orleans, LA. 1.0-meter Sea Level Rise

Tampa, FL. 1.5-meters Sea Level Rise

Hampton, VA. 1.0-meter Sea Level Rise

Galveston, TX and Hurricane Ike

Architecture 2030’s work on mapping sea level rise for the Texas Observer for Galveston, Texas was published in Nov. 2007 – That Sinking Feeling depicted 1 meter, 1.5 meters and 2 meters of sea level rise. Ike struck Galveston ten months later, on Sep 12th 2008, pushing water up against Galveston Island, and raising sea level by over 3 meters.

Sea level rise study, That Sinking Feeling, Galveston, Texas, published, Nov. 2007, Texas Observer.

Hurricane Ike, September 12, 2008, 3:59pm EDT.

Hurricane Ike, 3-meters (9ft 10in) sea level rise, Galveston Island, September 12, 2008.


re posted on Thursday, November 15th 2012

Terms of Engagement After Sandy


Photo credit – Eliud Echevarria: FEMA News Photo.

Sandy and the surges of water that accompanied her didn’t discriminate in terms of which lives, homes and businesses they devastated. People of all income levels and companies of all sizes were hard hit. Thousands in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut remain without power, hampering the relief effort. All of this is to say: there’s a long road ahead and communities must work with decision-makers now to create a plan for allocating reconstruction financial resources.

After past disasters such as the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, Congress created federal assistance programs that became dominated by those that needed it least: large corporations and luxury housing developers. It’s safe to assume these interests, the typical beneficiaries of “disaster capitalism,” are trying to influence similar legislation after Sandy.

Post-September 11, 2001 federal resources helped firms that already had vast resources—such as Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley—or “small businesses” like boutique brokerage houses and law firms (see Good Jobs New York’s Database of Deals for more information). As recently reported by our Good Jobs First colleagues, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, most of Louisiana’s allocation of the federal Gulf Opportunity Zone Bonds went to giant petrochemical companies not located in the hardest hit areas.

Here are some suggestions on how to do it right this time:

Do help small businesses get back on their feet quickly with a minimum of red tape. This includes helping them deal with private insurance carriers. Provide technical assistance that helps them firm up their operations by making them more sustainable.

Don’t prioritize luxury housing. Real estate interests made sure that 9/11 Liberty Bonds for Lower Manhattan had so few strings attached that they fueled housing for the fabulously wealthy and no new affordable housing construction.

Do focus on the needs of residents and small businesses most affected. Subsidies and/or other land-use policies shouldn’t displace existing or future generations from working and living in healthy, affordable neighborhoods. Private Activity Bonds after Hurricane Katrina were available to such a large geographic area that those who needed resources the most were left with little access to these funds.

Don’t ignore the needs of low-income workers. The 9/11 attacks had a huge direct impact on the financial sector of Lower Manhattan, but they also had a severe ripple effect on low-income workers; think of the baggage handlers at the airports, retail workers in Lower Manhattan or restaurant employees in Chinatown. Before Congress in 2007, Interfaith Worker Justice testified that after Katrina, loose regulations lowered wages and greatly undermined job standards.

Do subsidize projects that create high-road employment in both the construction industry and for permanent jobs. If recent reports are any indication, there are decades’ worth of employment opportunities. Many of the areas swept away or without heat and hot water are home to the poor and working class and between 70,000 and 80,000 residents of the New York City Housing Authority have been impacted by the storm. If these people don’t have decent -paying jobs to return to, it will have devastating long-term impacts on the economy

A message to Katrina victims from some community groups engaged in 9/11 rebuilding still rings true after Sandy: Officials at all levels of government, particularly in Congress, must consider four things before creating reconstruction subsidy programs:

1) Programs must be created using broadly democratic and transparent planning principles.

2) The allocation of funds must prioritize the creation of good jobs and building sustainable neighborhoods.

3) Programs must focus on fiscal stewardship by rebuilding infrastructure and public goods that will help existing businesses rebound and foster new ones.

4) Programs must incorporate clawback provisions to make sure that recipients (especially large firms) live up to those job-creation requirements. Some of the largest recipients of 9/11 funds had grants withheld or were forced to repay them after laying off workers.

Some might argue that these safeguards will slow the recovery from Sandy. We think the opposite is true: if loose rules allow big companies with the most lobbyists and consultants to hog the trough, the neighborhoods hit hardest will get short-changed and suffer longest.

re-posted on Tuesday November 13th  2012