Who has access to green infrastructure funding? A review of municipal incentive programs

Authors: Marissa Matsler*, Cary Institute, Micheal Finewood, Pace University, Zenya Ledermann, Eckerd College, Olivia Pierce, Pace University
Topics: Urban Geography, Planning Geography
Keywords: green infrastructure, environmental justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 4:35 PM
Room: Director's Row J, Sheraton, Plaza Building, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Funding for green infrastructure (GI) projects in the United States is difficult to procure. Municipal departments struggle to allocate budget to build facilities, especially in regions where they lack strong regulatory drivers. To address this, incentive structures have emerged to provide funds to local nonprofits and private landowners to subsidize GI construction throughout the city. While on the surface these funds seem to give local groups and residents more say in where and how GI is built in their city, it is not known who has access to these incentive programs and who is actually benefiting from them. Environmental justice scholars have shown that, in other sectors, grant funds for environmental projects often go to well-established, primarily white and well-funded organizations, while low-income residents and organizations that primarily serve people of color are not receiving such funding. Through this work, we ask if GI small grant programs follow this trend.

We examine GI incentive programs in the United States that are created as a part of Stormwater Management Plans that are required by Clean Water Act mandate. Programs range in amount and type (from $20 rebates to $50,000 grants). Many programs are offered in the form of reimbursements, potentially representing a barrier to access for many households. Additionally, transparency of online information varies widely by state, adding to potential barriers. We present an initial review of these incentive program descriptions and application processes that sets up further research questions for on-the-ground analysis.

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