In our current climate environment, critical infrastructure is under intense strain and not keeping pace with the changes and challenges of the 21st century — from the pot-holed roads we drive on every day to our outdated storm drainage systems. According to The Union of Concerned Scientists, more than 300,000 homes in U.S. coastal areas could be underwater within the next 30 years. It’s clear that we need to rethink our traditional approach to infrastructure, and we should do so now to capitalize on the growing commitment to renewable energy and efficiency goals, and the new interest in green infrastructure projects.
At Neighborly, we want to help communities pursue a transformative approach to creating vibrant, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, and we believe modern municipal finance is is at the heart of delivering on this social contract. So it’s concerning that California’s infrastructure investment and resiliency challenges will adversely impact people and places, and as a result also their ability to access the capital markets to finance the very infrastructure they need to protect themselves.
In short, we need to do more with fewer public dollars by building multi-use, multi-benefit infrastructure.
For example, green infrastructure to manage stormwater so that we can reduce flood risk at the same time as providing urban greening benefits like improved air quality and reduced urban heat island effects. This double benefit is especially important for neighborhoods with limited access to parks and green space. As another example, transportation dollars that finance complete streets can also be used to lay down the required broadband infrastructure to improve Internet access.
In California, summer wildfires have also become the new normal. So when we’re thinking about financing public infrastructure we must consider disaster planning and response. The ability to reach residents and deliver emergency response services via physical and digital infrastructure has never been more important; the shocking news last week that Verizon throttled firefighters’ Internet speeds could not put a finer point on the necessity of community-owned broadband networks.
Through the humble municipal bond -- the original community impact investment vehicle — we can proactively prepare our infrastructure and communities for climate and seismic risks by investing in thoughtful planning and physical retrofits. We can also help prioritize and maximise limited capital improvement dollars by thinking carefully about digital infrastructure and how we can build smarter, more efficient cities by utilizing new technologies and non-invasive data collection with sensors.
Bringing our communities into the 21st century will require a significant amount of investment that needs to be generated in new and creative ways. At Neighborly, we are committed to helping cities exploring new financing opportunities and transformative next-generation projects — like community broadband and solar microgrids — to build greater self reliance and resilience.