2021 was a year of extremes for the nation’s infrastructure and built environment. Extreme weather events like Hurricane Ida, wildfires in the west, and the recent Kentucky tornadoes made it harder to ignore the effects of climate changes. Rents and housing prices rose PrematurelyThis is due to strong demand, supply constraints and policy choices. The digital divide remained, separating children and workers from their jobs.
It was also a year marked by extreme change in policy circles. The landmark Infrastructure Investment and Jobs ActThe federal government made a commitment to address these challenges in a generational initiative called the IIJA. Many cities and states responded by allowing their zoning to be liberalized, creating safer biking infrastructure and stronger pathways to jobs in infrastructure.
As we are about to begin a new year we asked Brookings Metros staffers and nonresident senior Fellows what the most pressing built-environment issues could be for 2022. Their answers demonstrate the importance of both the challenges and the opportunities for delivering change for people as well as the planet.
Transition: Water at center of built environment
Dr. Newsha K. Ajami, Nonresident Senior Fellow
Modernizing water infrastructure is essential if we are to address climate issues at scale by 2022. Our water infrastructure system is powerful, but it has fatal flaws. It is a linear, once-through system that delivers clean water to our taps and treats stormwater and wastewater as nuisances to be seized and removed as soon as possible. More than 70% is sourced from long distances and purified before being used outdoors or flushed down the drain. Each day, new buildings, subdivisions, and neighborhoods are created to tap into these same outdated systems.
We have an opportunity once in a lifetime to create a climate resilient, equitable water future. Infrastructure dollars must be spent on solutions that enable us to embrace a circular water economy and reuse water at all scales. These include homes (e.g. shower to toilet), buildings (greywater reuse to outdoors irrigation), neighborhoods (shared space reuse facilities and stormwater collection and reuse) and utility and regional scales. Soft infrastructure (data, IT and decision support tools) can be used to activate digitally-fueled system efficiency. This will enable a transition towards modern water governance structures.
Water policy must be at heart of environmental transition. It is a great time to modernize, especially now that we have significant new resources.
While mobile phone data is useful for planners, it must be used responsibly.
Alex Berke, Nonresident Senior Fellow
In 2022, we can expect a flood of new plans and dollars for climate change. The important question is how to best leverage this money.
This pursuit is driven by data. It’s used to understand how people travel, and to model the effects of possible changes. Data has traditionally been sourced by the government CommuterAnd TravelSurveys and datasets can be freely shared as public good. Survey datasets are now less common and more accessible than data from mobile phones.
A multibillion dollar industryThis data is mainly used in the private sector and revolves around location data collected from mobile phones. This data can be used to provide government transportation agencies with a better view than traditional surveys. The data is continuously collected from a larger population. Numerous U.S. companies are now buying mobile phone data to provide analytics services to transportation agencies.
Although mobile phone data can be a powerful tool for predicting future changes in the built environment, ethical questions remain about how to manage these data. Mobile phone data presents new privacy risks, and the public are often not aware that they are being “surveyed.” Who will be responsible for ensuring data does not reveal sensitive information, such as where individuals travel? Who will ensure data is representative of different demographic groups without bias? These datasets can be used to benefit the public. Should they be considered public goods like survey data? If mobile phone data is to be used for infrastructure investments and addressing climate changes, then 2022 should be an year to find the answers.
The most destructive storm is the one that we don’t prepare for
Rushaine Goulbourne Research Associate
Our response to hurricanes is the challenge facing the built environment in 2022 and beyond. Every fall, we are reminded of the human, economic, and physical costs of climate change and the worst natural disasters that have impacted the United States in the recent past. 20 yearsThere have been hurricanes.
Although the shock factor of people being killed, their homes destroyed, and the increasing destruction diminishes with the start of a new year, a new hurricane season will be around six months away. To avoid repeating levels of destruction year after année, our decisions must be precise and well-thought out.
Following the pandemic, many of the country’s coast regions have seen their job markets suffer greatly. Many workers were laid off and businesses closed. The next year will see coastal areas in rebuilding mode. Businesses are depending on a less destructive hurricane season or prudent public use of funds to fortify infrastructure necessary for day-today operations. Powerwater supply. A service disruption is a disruption for some businesses. Shutting down.
The IIJA also includes funds ProtectBusinesses in coastal areas may be able to rely on this money to protect them from hurricane damage. The state and local governments must determine early how this money will be used to ensure their economies’ viability in the face of an active 2022 hurricane season.
The federal government must quickly restore fair housing enforcement
Noah Kazis, Nonresident Senior Fellow
Housing discrimination and segregation are key mechanisms to entrench racial hierarchies within this country. Driving inequalitiesIn everything, from household wealth to economic opportunity to educational or health outcomes. In 2022, I believe there should be a serious urgency in the Department of Housing and Urban Developments’ (HUD) rulemaking process. Fair Housing Promotion: Affirmativelypolicy (AFFH).
Since the passage the 1968 Fair Housing Act, any form of discrimination based upon race has been illegal. However, 50 years later, racial segregation is still a problem. HUD spent almost all of the Obama administration preparing a set of regulations (AFFH). This was to create a formal framework to assist states, cities, public housing authorities, and other government agencies in proactive reducing barriers to racial Integration. But Trump’s administration quickly changed their minds. Tore DownThe AFFHs regulations.
Now, HUD RestorativeRevising the AFFH framework. The department’s previous strategy was too slow, and depended on bottom-up consensus building for a polarized age of administrative U-turns. A handful of cities were encouraged to engage by the Obama-era AFFH rules in new planning processesfocuses on fair housing, but HUD It was never possibleNo city or state was ever forced to do anything except what was required by law. The AFFH theory was not able to be measured in decades. It only survived for just over a month.
The country’s cities and states should revise their policies and practices before it is too late. This means that by 2023, there should be a rule that carries a threat of consequence and enforcement actions to make that threat credible. HUD has very little time given the timelines that are part of the notice-and comment rulemaking process.
Building inclusive places requires that we build institutional capacity
Elizabeth Kneebone, Senior Fellow Nonresident
The end of 2021 saw potentially game-changing federal investment in the nation’s built environment. These federal investments can play a role in resolving long-standing racial or economic inequalities that have been shaped and perpetuated by the nation’s built environment.
To realize this potential, these investments must reach those who most need them. Communities are often left behind by federal investments due to their inability to attract or deploy the critical resources. These shortfalls can be seen in gaps in local government systems and staffing, as well as in a dearth of civic infrastructure and non-profit capacitysupport systems that are crucial to ensuring that low-income communities or communities of color don’t lose out on federal dollars.
These gaps will need to be bridged with more and more federal investments than what is currently earmarked for the infrastructure and social expenditure bills for technical assistance, capacity-building, and financial support. In order to avoid exacerbating the disparities in already-struggle communities by failing ensure that they have access and use these resources, it is imperative that we address long-standing capacity gaps in 2022.
Racial justice is not just about yard signs, it requires equitable land use practices.
Anika Singh Lemar Nonresident Senior Fellow
Many have noticed the oddity of Black Lives Matter yard signs Sharing spaceAnti-housing propaganda. This dissonance isn’t limited to NIMBYs lawns. In Connecticut, for example, the Trust for Public Land spent $4 millionTo purchase 288 acres of land, the buyer needed $2 million in local bonding. The previous owner spent over 20 years trying to get local approvals for mixed housing. But Simsbury fought back by filing litigation and appealing to the zoning board at each stage of the approval process.
These tactics are used to block moderately priced housing by using legal and political resistance. They are common in towns that are near a city but that erect housing or zoning policies that ensure that their demographics are very different from that city. While some localities are able to raise funds to purchase school supplies from their own resources, others spend millions to preserve open spaces and corporate campuses on the golf course and other green spaces rather than allowing the development of moderate or low-income housing.
Our built environment is the result many racial injustices including selective preservation in disproportionately black towns of open space. This environment reflects those injustices back at you in the form of a massive gap in racial wealth and differential access parks, education, and other public resources. We must give substance and measure success in our commitments to racial injustice, and we must promise not only solidarity, but quantifiable improvement to people’s lives.
States must find a solution to the broadband opportunity
Blair Levin, Nonresident Senior Fellow
Congress has allocated sufficient funds for the nation’s broadband challenge. This includes deploying future-proof networks throughout the country. The most pressing question in the next year is how to make sure that these funds are spent wisely in order to achieve that goal.
This is far from certain. The funds were allocated by Congress to the states, rather than to the Federal Communications Commission which was historically the main federal agency charged with this mission. No state has a long-standing department that is experienced in spending large federal funds for broadband, as opposed to roads, bridges, and water systems.
States need to increase their capacity to spend between $50 billion-100 billion on broadband networks, mainly in underserved and unserved communities. This involves mapping, competitive grant-making and coordination with other infrastructure projects (for dig one purposes), as well as generating local government input on the needs and ensuring grantees meet their obligations. This capacity can only be built with a surge in federal, state, and local cooperation. These best practices can be used by states to address these problems.
Retrofitting American suburbs is urgent
Robert Puentes, Nonresident Senior Fellow
For many years, the simple demarcations that divided “city” and “suburb” were clear. Cities were dense, diverse and full of jobs. Suburbs were single-family white, wealthy, and rich neighborhoods. Even though this overly simplified depiction may not have been true in the past. It is certainly not true today. Suburbs in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas are Now you can find moreThey are more likely to be Black, Latino or Hispanic residents than those living in cities. They You can also call them home to most of the nation’s immigrants.
While people have changed, the suburban built environment has not. Despite strong downtowns, diverse neighborhoods and multigenerational housing, low density auto-oriented development still prevails. It’s not from a lack of trying. It’s not from a lack of trying. best laid plansTo achieve SustainableAnd EquitableToo often, strong voices that are concerned about the character of the community and suburban growth are repelled. Dog whistle racism. Most Americans still live in racially-segregated areas.
They are a great example of how to make a difference. Negative EffectsReversing these trends is one of the most pressing issues in the built environment for 2022. While there are no easy solutions, it is important to generate support for aggressive policies regarding zoning reform. Parking reductionsAffordable housing production. Remaking suburbs won’t happen overnight. It will take a new generation to lead government and businesses, and be willing to take risks with private and political capital. It will also require a rethinking suburban attitudes towards density, urbanity, and diversity.
The state should rethink the way they fund transportation
Gian Claudia Sciara, Nonresident Senior Fellow
The IIJA provides long-needed federal funds for all modes and transportation, and makes important 21st-century investments. It ignores the growing dysfunctionU.S. transportation funding. The law relies on $90 billion from the U.S. General Fund to prevent Highway Trust Fund bankruptcy. forward-looking user fees.
Federal transportation funding is stuck in the 20th Century, but that doesn’t mean state funding shouldn’t be. States contribute Over 70%state legislators can make many moves to reimagine the revenue stream for 21st century mobility.
States have been worried for years that rising vehicle fuel efficiency and adoption of electric cars (EVs), will reduce gas tax receipts, the largest source of revenue (GST).39%In fiscal year 2021), for state transportation funds. However, many states could pilot new programs. Mileage-based road usage feesThis would simultaneously address revenue requirements and encourage efficiency in private car use through less driving. States that do not use vehicle Registration fees for hybrid and electric vehiclesThese could be added to ensure that EV drivers pay their fair share for road maintenance and bridge repairs. States legislatures could also encourage and support local governments. Invest in their futureTransportation revenues. Finally, lawmakers could reconsider any restrictions that restrict transportation to road spending in states that are subject to statutory or constitutional restrictions. A wider range of transportation modes and investmentsThat promote sustainable mobility
Democracies depend on affordable housing
Evan Siddall, Nonresident Senior Fellow
The complex interplay of climate change, COVID-19 pandemic and low interest rates, uncertainty about housing prices, as well as the resulting rise in socioeconomic inequality, is the most pressing issue facing the built environment in the coming years. These factors are very damaging. Housing affordabilityThis is creating a new landed class of homeowners who are getting wealthier. The backbone of our economy, the essential workers, nurses, and teachers who make our morning coffee, can no longer afford to purchase homes and are falling further behind.
Pandemic-related urban exodus, supply chain distractions, and a shortage in skilled labor have all contributed to suburban housing prices rising. Because housing markets are highly rate-sensitive, monetary policy is only adding to the problem. Legacy fiscal policies, government-sponsored enterprises (Fannie Mac and Freddie Mac in America, and my former employer, Canada Mortgage & Housing Co. Canada) continue to add inflationary stimuli in the form mortgage securitization, mortgage insurance, and other mortgage insurance.
We must preserve the integrity and democracy of our western liberal democracy system. Attendaffordable housing so that everyone can feel secure and connected in their home.
Cities with high levels of living can reduce climate change impacts and increase economic opportunities.
Christopher Severen, Nonresident Senior Fellow
Large reductions in carbon emissions are necessary to mitigate the worst effects from climate change. Cities can helpEmissions are lower for Urban dwellers are more likely to be urban than others. However, cities have become increasingly expensive and congested. Fewer people have access to their benefitsFewer people can move to or stay in cities. They also miss out on the many advantages of urban life. The lower carbon lifestyle that comes naturallyIn cities.
One solution is to make cities and their transportation infrastructure more efficient. Neighborhoodsespecially those near transit or urban centersshould add livable density. This will make it easier to access the benefits of living close to a city, without raising prices. With a better transportation infrastructure, people can get to jobs, activities, or each other without increasing emissions and congestion.
However, cities must consider both densification as well as transportation infrastructure. Los Angeles is an excellent example. The city passed Proposition U before building their subway system. This law limited density in large parts of the city. As the transit system grew so did the need to create more stations. The geography of economic activity has not shown much response.. For future growth and success, it is important to make additional investments in infrastructure and land use.
Cities must take on the climate change challenge
Jan Whittington, Nonresident Senior Fellow
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is uncompromising in its Demand the elimination of net greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).Yet, only a few cities can. ClaimThey are investing at a pace that is compatible with the goal of limiting the world’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Cities often take the easy way out of climate action by promoting demonstration projects and championing the inherent characteristics of projects that are already in development. Climate-friendly infrastructure investment is still inadequate. It is often too fragmented or focused on specific types of disasters. The United States has too few cities that are willing to invest in multisectoral infrastructure.
An estimated 70% of GHG emissionsThese are due to urban settlements’ reliance upon Energy sourcesThese include coal, oil, gas, and others. MaterialsFor example, cement. Planning is essential to reduce emissions from cities. Infrastructure systemsWithin cities: the energy sector and the building stock, transportation system, and waste processing.
This transition is urgent. Evident for some time. Already, more than are suffering the negative effects of the changing climate. 70%Complacency is costing us all. Cities are the engines of world economies and home to the majority of its population. We all need them to take climate action.