Closing out the presentations portion of the inaugural IDSC Day held on Thursday, September 28, Abigail Fleming, Esq., Associate Director of the University of Miami School of Law’s Environmental Justice Clinic (EJC), unveiled the new Displacement Vulnerability and Mitigation Tool (DVMT) created in collaboration with IDSC’s Systems and Data Engineering team.
Displacement is defined as the involuntary relocation of households, and it may be direct (rising home prices or processes like eviction or lease non-renewal force residents to move) or indirect (changes in the neighborhood mean it is no longer able to meet residents’ economic or cultural needs). Displacement is a particularly pressing issue in South Florida, where hyper-development and climate change are leading to rising home prices and gentrification in low-to-moderate-income marginalized communities. This is due in part to a process known as climate gentrification, whereby existing low-to-moderate-income communities that are more resilient to the effects of climate change because they are located at higher elevations are targeted for development.
The EJC developed the DVMT in response to concerns of its community partners. The DVMT equips real estate developers, local municipalities, and community activists with specific data about the existing property, the neighboring community, and the anticipated property uses, and assesses that data to determine the community’s susceptibility to displacement as a result of a proposed development, ranking the property as Very Susceptible, Susceptible, Moderately Susceptible, and Least Susceptible. It then provides project-specific, research-informed strategies to mitigate displacement that are adaptable to the specific needs of the affected community.
Mitigation efforts chosen for a proposed development will be enumerated in an enforceable Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that memorializes the developers’ commitments and obligations to the residents currently living on the affected property and to the surrounding community.
Mitigation efforts include:
- Constructing Affordable Housing;
- Making Financial Contributions to Trust Funds, which could include:
- Affordable Housing Trust Fund (Creating new housing for very-low-income residents);
- Community Revitalization Trust (giving community organizations discretion of where and how to use the funds for community needs);
- Preservation Investment Fund (to preserve existing affordable housing in the area, and ensure existing affordable housing is up to code);
- Pathways to Homeownership Fund (supporting low-income, first-time home buyers in affording a down payment);
- Homestead Preservation Fund (to rectify code violations or armor home for natural disasters or sea level rise);
- Disaster Evacuation Fund, or
- Community Land Trust (to preserve housing in the surrounding areas);
- Creating Community Resources and Programming (such as elder-care facility, youth center, public park, etc.); and/or
- Providing Additional Community-Specific Benefits, as requested by the parties to the CBA.
Financial contributions to trust funds should be a minimum of 10% of the site development costs. And all affordable housing should have at least a 20-year restrictive covenant to ensure the units remain affordable.
About the University of Miami School of Law Environmental Justice Clinic
The Environmental Justice Clinic (EJC) advocates for an empowers marginalized communities by combining civil rights, environmental, poverty, and public health law with community lawyering principles. Communities of color disproportionately bear the environmental, economic, and health burdens of development, implementation, and enforcement of the law. Utilizing a community lawyering approach, the EJC seeks systemic change for their clients through advocacy, public policy resources, rights education, and transactional assistance. EJC tackles issues in South Florida including climate change, displacement, contamination, environmental health, municipal equity, and more. Current work includes several ongoing cases and campaigns where EJC works closely with their partners and local community organizations.