CNT in the News

Fight, Flee, or Adapt: Rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey

Inman | November 7, 2017

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, mounds of sodden building materials lined the streets of Houston and other flooded areas. As residents began the long process of rebuilding, the storm’s unprecedented flooding rekindled a long-running debate in the Houston area over the best way to move forward: rebuild the same way in the same spot, abandon chronically flooded properties to nature or find more flexible, adaptable ways to build in areas at risk of flooding.  One alternative strategy involves "wet-proofing" the lower level of buildings (or entire buildings) in risk zones by relocating HVAC equipment. Durable materials like concrete, brick and tiles are key features of this strategy. 

A more encompassing approach to resiliency — and a more realistic one — is illustrated by recent Texas A&M graduate Zixu Qiao, who received a competitive and “highly coveted” 2017 Student Honor Award for designing a medium-density development, for an area southeast of Houston that is vulnerable to both flooding and sea level rise. Qiao surveyed resiliency strategies globally and deployed CNT's Green Values Stormwater Toolbox, a National Stormwater Management Calculator, one of many sustainable urban planning tools developed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

The final concept includes a generous helping of open space, bioswales and other elements that route floodwaters away from buildings. Wetlands preservation and natural pollution filtration are also important features. One key element that may have influenced the judges: much of the flood control landscaping doubles as recreation and other amenities that add value to the overall development. Smarter, stronger solutions are at hand, and a more sustainable quality of life could be the wave of the future — even in areas facing climate change impacts.

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The Tech Tsunami is Coming for Realtors

National Association of Realtors RealtorMag | November 7, 2017

Technology-oriented attendees of the 2017 REALTOR® Conference & Expo in Chicago this past week are bringing back a fair amount of homework. First on the list: Embrace the future of blockchains, artificial intelligence, and big data.  One set of data is made possible by the Center for Neighborhood Technology.  Home shoppers using the “drive ’til you qualify” mentality may be missing a critical factor in selecting a truly affordable home. Transportation costs are typically the second largest household expense behind housing, and can make a home that appears affordable become less so, said Scott Bernstein, founder and chief strategy officer at Chicago’s Center for Neighborhood Technology, who presented during Friday’s Housing Opportunity Forum. Bernstein highlighted his organization’s Housing and Transportation Affordability Index, which factors housing and transportation costs into the affordability equation. Plug in an address at the H+T Index to get a breakdown of the average percentage of their income households spend on housing and transportation in your area.

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Transportation is a Necessary Component of Housing Equity

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Cascade: No. 97, Fall 2017 | November 6, 2017

Those working in redevelopment have undoubtedly heard about transit-oriented development (TOD). In TOD, transit lines are the backbone of individual projects or entire centers built around a station area. TOD can reduce automobile dependency and make a community more amenable to walking and biking. More recently, equitable TOD (ETOD) has been advocated in response to the gentrification pressures that modern TODs often introduce, displacing the very people most reliant on transit out of the station area. Transportation equity is a relatively new concept to the affordable housing community. The importance of access to transportation has been acknowledged, but it has either been seen as an issue secondary in importance to housing availability or as too large and opaque to address. Recent research has shown that transportation equity can no longer be ignored and should receive nearly equal consideration as the availability of affordable housing. Fortunately, eTOD can be demystified, and success can be achieved in communities large and small, urban and suburban.

Data analysis can now visualize this graphically. The Center for Neighborhood Technology maintains the Housing and Transportation Index, which calculates the combined housing and transportation costs for most locations in the United States. In many locations, over half of a household’s income is consumed by housing and transportation costs. The cost of getting to and from a home for some low- and middle-income (LMI) renters and homeowners now rivals the cost of the home itself, especially in medium-sized and small cities, putting homeownership in jeopardy.

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Climate Change Endangers Midwest Infrastructure

The Columbia Chronicle | October 26, 2017

After the devastation of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria on the nation’s southern coasts,the Midwest Economic Policy Institute saw a need to educate the Midwest about how climate change could damage the region.  According to the Institute, the Great Lakes have experienced less ice coverage, leaving lake shores susceptible to flooding and erosion. Rising temperatures reduce the life of asphalt, add stress to bridges and highways, and cause pavements and railways to buckle. Flooding weakens structural supports for bridges. All of this will increase maintenance costs, and also affect homeowners and residents directly. Yet, data from CNT's Prevalance and Cost of Urban Flooding indicates that 67 percent of 27 ZIP codes in Cook County with the highest flood concentration damage earn below the average median household income for the county. 

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New Urbanism Isn't Dead--But Thanks To Climate Change, It is Evolving

City Metric | October 23, 2017

New Urbanism is certainly not dead, but it is evolving. From the CNU Climate Summit, we can see the broad outlines of what it might become: a movement that marries a vision of livable communities to the necessities of a changing climate. The goal: resilient, equitable, carbon-neutral cities that people want to live in. That’s the new New Urbanism

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Donkeys, Elephants, and Convenient Solutions

CNU Public Square | October 10, 2017

The Congress for the New Urbanism held a Climate Summit in Alexandria, Virginia in October to brainstorm on solutions to climate change. The recent catastrophic hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Texas, and Florida—some link the heightened storm activity to climate change—makes the topic especially urgent. The tendency of citizens and elected officials to repeat the same mistakes over and over again makes the task daunting.

The “elephant in the living room” is sprawl. “Land use is not a big consideration in today’s climate action plans being adopted by cities,” notes Jen McGraw of the Center for Neighborhood Technology, reporting at the summit. “Affordable transportation is not prioritized.” 


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