The long and continued practice of racist housing practices and policies in the United States means that Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color are the most likely to have insecure access to safe and affordable housing, to be unhoused—and to live in places that are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The racial reckoning of 2020 opened many funders’ eyes to the fact that we cannot achieve housing justice without also addressing racial justice, and vice versa. As the number of climate-related disasters grows, a second truth commands attention: To solve the housing crisis, we must simultaneously solve the climate crisis, and do both in ways that prioritize those who have had the least to do with creating either.

Not only do these climate disasters wreak their own havoc, they strain the crumbling infrastructure of long-disinvested places like Jackson, Mississippi, where storms in August 2022 left 150,000 residents without running water. The forecast of our future includes more of these disasters, plus longer pollen seasons, loss of biodiversity, chemical pollution, rising sea levels, heatwaves, cyclones, and devastatingly strong winds. An estimated 35 million American homes, almost a third of the country’s housing stock, currently face high risk of a weather-related disaster while millions more are trapped in housing without efficient heating and cooling systems or mechanical ventilation to improve indoor air quality.

Moreover, as higher-income households leave vulnerable coastal areas and move to higher elevations, climate gentrification is beginning to occur: Middle- and upper-income people move into lower-income areas, whose longtime inhabitants often were driven there by discriminatory housing practices and policies. Property values shoot up, as does the cost of living, and lower-income households are displaced. If we don’t expand the way we think about housing to include the impacts of climate change, our well-intentioned efforts to create, provide, and preserve housing will still leave vulnerable populations in untenable situations.

Funders for Housing and Opportunity (FHO) is a collaborative of 13 philanthropies, including The JPB Foundation where I serve as senior vice president of environment and strategic initiatives. In Gray to Green Communities: A Call to Action on the Housing and Climate Crises, I wrote about shifting housing from gray practices that produce short-term benefits for a few people, but have negative long-term impacts on the majority of people and the planet, to green practices that benefit everyone and support healthy people and places. FHO, which centers racial equity in cross-sector efforts to address the systemic causes of housing insecurity, is now actively searching out ways to invest in housing and climate justice. In this article, I talk about collective actions that funders can take to holistically address climate-related impacts on housing justice.

Read the full article about housing justice by Dana Bourland at Stanford Social Innovation Review.