Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harms way

April 25, 2019 by  
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Nearly one out of every 10 low-income housing projects is in a flood zone. In Houston , residents of a government-subsidized complex have sued the landlord, arguing that the subsidy system unfairly traps them in a cycle of devastation with no choice but to continuously return to where their lives are at risk and where they have lost everything — year after year. Half a million Americans live in government subsidized housing that is at direct risk for flooding. This number is modest, because the estimate is based on historical climate data and does not reflect rapidly increasing rainfall patterns. Related: National Weather Service claims 2019 flooding could cause record-breaking damage In 2016, a storm flooded the Arbor Court Apartments in Houston and residents like Sharobin White lost her car and everything in her apartment. Then in 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and again White lost her car and all her possessions. Like thousands of low-income families, Ms. White’s housing voucher is specific to her building and therefore returning to her apartment — despite the trauma and toxic mold — is her only option. Low-income residents take legal action According to an investigative article by the New York Times, the Arbor Court Apartments — like many low-income complexes — is a privately-owned building that has a contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The landlord receives payment from the government in exchange for renting to low-income tenants. Despite the known risks and exorbitant recovery expenses after the flood in 2016, the government renewed its contract with Arbor Court. Given the housing crisis throughout the country, HUD argues that without these complexes, thousands of families would be homeless. In other words, the department believes providing vulnerable housing is more urgent and beneficial than sending half a million Americans out onto the street. Similarly, the landlord’s lawyer argues that this building is just as at risk as others in the area and that despite two back-to-back floods, such catastrophes are not the norm. Climate science, however, indicates that these “ freak storms ” are indeed becoming more frequent and therefore not something that the government can afford to ignore. Low-income communities require massive amounts of assistance and funding after disasters and are least capable of recovery. By taking the risk to continue to fund such inexpensive, but repeatedly vulnerable housing, the government is setting itself up for higher costs in the long run — including losses in infrastructure and lives. Still, the government and landlords are cutting corners on recovery efforts and forcing low-income residents to return home despite glaring health risks. “Arbor Court is not a close question,” Michael M. Daniel, a civil rights lawyer working on the case, told The New York Times. “How in the world it hasn’t flunked the ‘decent, safe and sanitary’ test — it’s beyond belief.” Discontinuing decades of discrimination and danger The connection between low-income housing and unsafe conditions is not new. Land in vulnerable areas is cheaper, and therefore readily available for government and low-income projects , just as low-income and minority residents have historically been segregated to undesirable housing near toxic sites. A major shift in planning, policy and budget priorities will be necessary to begin to reverse decades of discriminatory policies, but HUD could start by discontinuing contracts with buildings in vulnerable and damaged areas. Related: High tide coastal flooding in US has doubled in the past 30 years In Houston, the Arbor Court landlord is currently constructing a new complex located 25 miles away but in a safer zone — at least in terms of flooding . Although the landlord plans to accept the same housing vouchers at that complex, residents argue that this option is still unacceptable. The new complex is located in a high-crime neighborhood, and the residents and their lawyers argue this is further perpetuating segregation. Arbor Court residents are calling for subsidized housing vouchers that could be accepted anywhere, giving the families the ability to choose where they want to live. However, the reality is that without specific state legislation, most landlords can legally refuse these vouchers and discriminate against those who have them. Safer housing solutions Some states, such as Connecticut and Massachusetts, passed legislation prohibiting landlords from refusing Section 8 housing vouchers, which is an important step in housing reform and justice. Other housing experts propose “climate vouchers,” which could give affected families the option to relocate somewhere safer, rather than being required to return to their unsafe homes in order to keep their benefit. Another possible solution would be to use disaster mitigation grant funding toward long-term relocation of housing projects and other infrastructure. Last year, HUD received $16 billion for disaster mitigation, which could be used toward building in safer zones or retrofitting buildings to be more resilient to expected storms. Once residents are relocated, flood zones should be re-converted into wetlands and open spaces, where green infrastructure like underground levees provide critical defenses that protect inland buildings from flooding. Properly designed open spaces can not only protect urban infrastructure, but also provide recreational spaces, beautify neighborhoods and raise property values. This long-term, equitable planning could ultimately save the government millions in recovery dollars after disasters hit. Via The New York Times Images via Revolution Messaging and SC National Guard

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Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harms way

A massive, egg-shaped bird observatory features reusable natural materials

April 25, 2019 by  
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Bird lovers in the Netherlands now have a new way of watching their feathered friends thanks to the recent opening of the Tij, a massive wooden bird observatory created with sustainability in mind. Designed by Amsterdam-based RAU Architects in collaboration with Ro&Ad Architects , the unique bird blind is in the shape of an egg in a nod to the thousands of large terns that nest nearby. To reduce environmental impact, the architects constructed the observatory primarily out of wood with modular construction so that the structure can be taken apart, moved and rebuilt in a different location. Opened this month, the Tij is part of the Droomfonds Haringvliet, a project started by six nature organizations and supported by the Droomfonds of the National Postcode Lottery to conserve and bring recreational opportunities to the Haringvliet, a large inlet of the North Sea in South Holland . The Tij was strategically located at the water’s edge to overlook spectacular nature views and the rich bird life, including the terns’ nesting grounds on the small islands off the coast of Scheelhoek. “Thanks to its complete rebuilding capabilities, modularity and materialization, it fully meets all the key points for a sustainable structure with circular potential,” explained Thomas Rau, chief architect of Tij, which was named in reference to the tide and the egg-shaped design. “By building everything in such a way that everything can be taken apart without losing any of its value, we ensure that the strain on the ecosystem is minimal. The shape of the observatory is extra special, mimicking the egg of the large tern. Nature itself produced this shape.” Related: IKEA teams up with London artists to upcycle old furniture into funky abodes for birds, bees and bats The parametrically designed bird observatory is built mainly of natural materials . The large wood panels are made by a file-to-factory Zollinger construction while the slim poles are chestnut. The facade is covered with local reeds sourced from the Scheelhoek nature reserve and pre-used bulkheads were repurposed into the tunnel to the observatory. In case of rising water levels, the lower portion of the bird observatory can be safely submerged under water without sustaining damage; the bottom part of the “egg” is built of Accoya wooden beams and the floor is made from wood and concrete. + RAU Architects Photography by Katja Effting via RAU Architects

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A massive, egg-shaped bird observatory features reusable natural materials

Fisker Debts Pile Up as Landlord and Web Designer Claim $700,000 in Unpaid Bills

April 18, 2013 by  
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The past few weeks have seen a rapid unraveling of Fisker Automotive’s stability, as CEO Henrik Fisker announced his resignation , bankruptcy rumors swirled and the company laid off 75 percent of its work force. And now, as GigaOM reports , lawsuits against Fisker are starting to pile up, lending further credence to suggestions that the company will soon file for bankruptcy. Both Fisker’s landlords and the automaker’s web designer have filed claims totaling $700,000 in allegedly unpaid bills. Read the rest of Fisker Debts Pile Up as Landlord and Web Designer Claim $700,000 in Unpaid Bills Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: fisker , Fisker Automotive , Fisker bankruptcy , fisker debt , fisker karma , fisker lawsuit , fisker layoff , henrik fisker , hybrid car , plug-in hybrid        

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Fisker Debts Pile Up as Landlord and Web Designer Claim $700,000 in Unpaid Bills

Green Landlord Awards. Would You Nominate Yours?

December 21, 2010 by  
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Photo credit: Renew magazine What sets Renew magazine apart from the myriad other eco technology and green lifestyle publications on newstand shelves, is that it has no ‘puff pieces’, no light reading articles. Rather it’s full of gritty, information rich articles about real people achieving real change in their lives. And the current issue just out is no exception

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Green Landlord Awards. Would You Nominate Yours?

Tapping the Energy Efficiency Market within Federal Building Lease Renewals

October 28, 2010 by  
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This article is the second in a series about the potential for private renewable energy companies to access the large (and growing) market for clean energy within the federal government by John K. Norris of MyEnergySolution . The U.S

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Tapping the Energy Efficiency Market within Federal Building Lease Renewals

100% Recyclable Planting Bag Lets You Create a Garden Anywhere

March 17, 2010 by  
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Are you an urban dweller aching for a garden of your own ? You don’t have to move to the suburbs or pester your landlord to let you up on the rooftop anymore.

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100% Recyclable Planting Bag Lets You Create a Garden Anywhere

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