July 27, 2021
Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
The past year and a half has been difficult for everyone, especially those most impacted by the economic downturn due to COVID-19. The pandemic exposed long-standing inequities within the United States, especially affecting those with access to affordable housing and others with an inability to receive adequate medical care.
Adrianne Todman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), spoke at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 10th Annual Building Resilience Through Private-Public Partnerships conference about how HUD is working to increase equity, the effect of climate change on equity, and why it’s important for all of society to come together for future resilience.
HUD Is Working to Increase Equity and Identify Roadblocks to Recovery
Todman said that HUD is working to raise equity among the underserved by utilizing block grants, or annual grants that contribute to better urban living conditions.
“We are now prioritizing engagement with local leaders and advocates when planning and implementing our resilience projects with an emphasis on listening to the voices of people of color and other underserved groups,” explained Todman.
Grant holders must now take into account how planning decisions will affect these groups, especially in racially concentrated areas and areas of conflict. They must also provide accessibility to all stakeholders through public hearings and comment periods on proposed activities, said Todman.
HUD is also collecting information to better understand the people they serve and how these inequities exist in providing the proper care and services to people within a demographic area.
“HUD is creating a citizen participation and community engagement toolkit to provide best practices and advice on how to meaningfully address the concerns of residents throughout the life of our grants,” explained Todman.
Addressing Climate Change Is a Way to Promote Equity
Climate change disproportionately impacts Americans burdened by systemic racism and residential segregation, said Todman. For example, in 2000, annual coastal flooding threatened more than 8,000 affordable homes in the U.S. By 2050, this number could be close to 25,000. These extreme weather conditions highlight wealth inequality within the United States.
“We must ensure disaster relief helps families of modest means,” said Todman.
HUD is taking a proactive approach to helping these areas before a natural disaster strikes by requiring grantees who receive a Community Development Block Grant to consider resilience to natural disasters a part of their plans.
“Our rule mandates that jurisdictions evaluate the risk posed by natural hazards to low- and moderate-income people, including housing risks that are expected to increase as a result of climate change,” said Todman.
Society Must Come Together to Build Resilience
Everyone, from the government to businesses to nonprofit organizations, must work together to eliminate the inequity revealed from the pandemic, emphasized Todman.
HUD created an office solely dedicated to engaging in philanthropic efforts while building partnerships to better serve communities. For example, the office partnered with the Rockefeller Corporation for a Rebuild By Design Competition that helped communities in the Northeast recover from Hurricane Sandy.
“Moving forward, the importance of building public-private partnerships can only become more urgent,” stressed Todman. “Our nation needs new ideas to navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic and by climate change.”