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Spotlight On: The Intersection of Climate and Housing Insecurity

The Intersection of Climate and Housing Insecurity intro

As climate change fuels extreme weather events of unprecedented strength and scale, low- and moderate-income housing, particularly in communities of color, is disproportionately affected.

Homes in low-income communities are more likely to be in harm's way and in areas with inadequate infrastructure, and low-income communities are more likely to have limited financial resources to prepare for, respond to, or recover from the impacts of extreme events. As individuals and families are displaced and pushed into unstable housing conditions their exposure to extreme weather events is magnified. People experiencing homelessness are particularly at-risk to temperature extremes, flooding, and wildfire pollution impacts that may be inescapable. These conditions exert a disproportionate impact on individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness and historically marginalized communities such as Black and Latino/a populations and tribal nations.

Yet we also know that climate resilient, healthy and energy efficient housing can be a powerful catalyst for well-being and economic security, and that housing support and homelessness service programs can be made resilient to climate shocks and disruption to more effectively serve those in need.

Abt’s interdisciplinary team of housing and environmental experts recognize the crucial intersection between the climate change, housing, and homelessness crises. Our longstanding partnerships with the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and hundreds of communities across the U.S have resulted in the development of actionable climate resilience trainings and guidelines, risk mapping and assessments of social and economic insecurity, energy modeling and greenhouse gas emission reductions, and technical assistance, monitoring, and evaluation for regulatory compliance.

Abt is uniquely positioned to help communities and care providers develop strategies to address extreme weather risks and strengthen resilience in the face of a changing climate.



Abt’s interdisciplinary team of 500+ staff is dedicated to delivering focused solutions to housing and economic inequities exacerbated by climate change. Our experts collaborate across sectors to address needs at the nexus of climate change, housing, and homelessness through:

  • Modeling climate change impacts across scales and systems, including air quality, flooding, and heat
  • Conducting climate change and contamination risk assessments for historically marginalized populations including tribal nations, youth, low-income, Black, and Latino/a communities
  • Leveraging environmental and climate justice participatory engagement, prioritizing the voices of people with lived experience
  • Designing social and economic impact assessments
  • Creating trainings, educational tools, and guidelines
  • Modeling energy efficiency programming
  • Measuring and verifying greenhouse gas mitigation for voluntary and regulatory efforts
  • Financing renewable energy and building efficiency
  • Drafting guidance on housing retrofits to address climate hazards

bolstering community

Relevant Experience

Bolstering Community Led Solutions and Decision-Making

Community Resilience Toolkit and Guides | Client: HUD
Abt created a Community Resilience Toolkit that provides a risk assessment process to help communities identify natural hazard risks and corresponding resilience actions. Abt also developed a series of step-by-step guides on implementing climate resilience actions, which list possible interventions, HUD and other funding options, and resources with more information. The toolkit and guides help community leaders and partners eligible for HUD grants to integrate climate resilience into their work, which strengthens the resilience and economic security of the communities most affected by climate change.

Heat Island Reduction Program Social Media Toolkit | Client: EPA
Abt developed the social media toolkit, ‘Cool Your Community,’ for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Heat Island Reduction Program to empower community-led reduction of heat island stressors. The Heat Island Reduction Program increases awareness of the heat island effect, shares information on heat island cooling strategies, and encourages individuals and local governments to adopt them. More than half a million people have engaged with EPA’s Heat Island Reduction content since 2019. ‘Cool Your Community’ provides community-mobilizing graphics, slogans, and hashtags in topic areas such as equity, conservation, and green infrastructure.

climate risk

Climate Risk, Hazard Mapping, and Analysis

Considering Current and Future Flood Risk | Client: NYSERDA
With community input, and in partnership with the New York State Energy and Research Agency (NYSERDA), Abt developed a concise guidebook to help communities in New York understand how to use climate information to assess potential changes to their flood risk. The team of climate, hydrology, and community risk planning experts worked with local communities to conduct a study of potential changes to each community’s inland flood risk. The toolkit provides screening-level information to identify potential impacts, information gaps, target areas or assets that warrant further study, and opportunities to integrate future flood risks in existing planning frameworks.

Identifying the Risks of Extreme Heat Events | Client: NYSERDA
Abt developed census-tract-level indicators of risks and burdens to support the identification of disadvantaged communities for the NYSERDA and the New York Climate Justice Working Group. The project included the development of several climate change indicators that were combined with demographic data to identify communities experiencing compounding vulnerabilities. The indicators developed include:

  • Census Tract Land Cover / Urban Heat Island - This indicator describes threats to census tracts from future heat vulnerability by mapping areas with high potential for added heat stress due to different land cover types (i.e., vegetated, developed, and agricultural land cover).
  • Census Tract High Temperature or Heatwave Days - This indicator describes threats to census tracts from areas with high potential for added heat stress due to higher temperatures caused by climate change. The temperature projections are derived using a moderate climate change scenario and the year 2050.

National Flood Characterization Tool (NFRCT) | Client: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the U.S., and climate change will only continue to exacerbate this hazard. Abt’s NFRCT estimates flood risk across the U.S. through a map-based interface, capturing the number of people at risk by key characteristics, including income level and demographics. NFRCT also brings together criteria such as the potential for asset damage, human exposure, and exposure of emergency response infrastructure, and vulnerability metrics. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is able to use the tool to not only assess flood risk but to also establish priorities for investment.

advancing environmental justice

Advancing Environmental Justice

Examining Lead Exposure Impact | Client: EPA
Health professionals and scientists now understand there is no safe level of lead exposure for humans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that even low levels of lead in children’s blood can affect IQ, attention span, and academic achievement. Low-level exposures in adults are linked to cardiovascular effects. For both children and adults, these effects cannot be reversed. Abt has conducted extensive economic and environmental justice analyses of impacts of multiple lead related EPA rulings. Abt’s analysis of EPA’s Lead and Copper Drinking Water Rule concluded that the rule would mitigate the disproportionate lead exposure risks faced by minority and low-income residents due to systematically determined household conditions. Our investigation of EPA’s Dust-Lead Hazard Standard and Dust-Lead Clearance rules found that the rules helped to mitigate household lead exposure of low- income children, non-Hispanic Black children, and non-Hispanic White children.

Reducing Environmental Threats to Tribal Lifeways | Client: Pueblo San Ildefonso Department of Environmental and Cultural Preservation and Tar Creek Trustee Council Indian Tribes
Engaging closely with seven Tribes in northeastern Oklahoma, Abt identified that the risk of exposure to heavy metals is 150 times above safe levels for Tribal communities around the Tar Creek Superfund site. Exposure occurs via traditional lifeway pathways, such as traditionally prepared fish and locally gathered plants used for food and medicinal purposes. As a result of Abt’s analysis, the EPA is now incorporating traditional lifeway exposure scenarios in its overall remediation and risk assessments for cleaning up the site.

Abt is also working closely with the Pueblo de San Ildefonso, a Native American community in New Mexico. Climate change has contributed to extreme weather events that have resulted in increased movement of radioactive and heavy metal contamination from the Los Alamos Lab onto Pueblo lands. Responding to the Tribal leaders’ recognition of the dangers to their community’s well-being, Abt set up climate planning workshops for community members to come together to explore their concerns and develop resiliency strategies. At the same time, we are assisting the Tribe with a Tribal Risk Assessment to determine the health impacts of Lab-derived contaminants.

strengthening recovery

Strengthening Recovery and Resilience Following Extreme Weather Events

Hurricane Harvey Fair Housing Disaster Recovery Planning | Client: HUD
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which flooded more than 100,000 homes and displaced over 30,000 people, Abt worked with HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity to help Houston achieve its vision of integrating equity and fair housing strategies into its disaster recovery planning. Abt advised the city on designing recovery programs and strategies to promote equity and address historically persistent barriers to fair housing. Abt also conducted an analysis of impediments to the Fair Housing Choice study that leverages disaster recovery activities to further fair housing goals. We helped ensure that the resulting strategies were incorporated into the city’s plans for federal affordable housing and community development block grants, as well as other planning documents.

Recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria | Client: HUD
In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Abt provided technical assistance to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands which informed the Certification and Action Planning processes they implemented to receive CDBG-DR funds. This work included data analysis for an assessment of unmet needs and support in designing recovery activities, including housing, economic development and infrastructure; community and stakeholder engagement; and measurement and evaluation.

Contact Us

Nichole Fiore

Nichole Fiore

Principal Associate

Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation

colleen moore

Colleen Grogan Moore

Principal Associate

Human Services

Alexis St. Juliana

Alexis St. Juliana

Environmental Policy and Governance Associate

Technical Assistance & Implementation

LaToria Whitehead, PhD, MPH

LaToria Whitehead, PhD, MPH

Senior Associate, Environmental Justice


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