The complicated role of green infrastructure incentive programs in urban gentrification processes

Authors: Michael Finewood*, Pace University, A Marissa Matsler, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Urban Geography
Keywords: Green infrastructure, incentive programs, neoliberalism, cities, devolution, political ecology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Stormwater runoff continues to be a vexing environmental challenge for cities. In the US, stormwater often floods streets and overwhelms treatment systems, causing hazards for urban communities and often contributing to pollution in nearby waterways. Climate change and declining infrastructure investment will only exacerbate these challenges, with the most vulnerable communities continuing to bear the most significant burden. Green infrastructure is often situated as a partial, low cost solution for mitigating stormwater challenges. Green infrastructure can also provide additional co-benefits such as increasing green space and community empowerment, and city managers are adopting green infrastructure as a stormwater management technology. As such, several cities as well as the federal government have developed a range of incentive programs to encourage vulnerable communities to build green infrastructure facilities in their neighborhoods. In this presentation we explore the role of small grant incentive programs in meeting urban environmental challenges. We suggest that, although well intentioned, grant requirements direct projects away from the communities they were originally intended to serve because they are not attuned to actual community needs. Instead, these grants and programs serve already resourced actors and communities. We draw on literature from neoliberalism, urban environmental governance, devolution, and political ecology to argue that regardless of intention, these processes contribute to a discursively justified green gentrification process and an ongoing dispossession of community planning.

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