Tampa outlines a roadmap to tackle climate risks and social inequality

Tampa has a steep agenda to better prepare it for the impacts of climate risks and to ameliorate long-term economic and social inequality.

The groundbreaking Resilient Tampa roadmap introduces 58 bold initiatives to tackle the known and unknown of the 21st century.

As in cities around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis have taken a toll on the coastal Florida city — shockwaves that are likely to be felt for years to come.

Resilience is an approach that helps cities leverage their strengths to tackle the complex known and unknown challenges of the 21st century. Like many cities, Tampa faces a range of challenges that could hinder recent growth and have been amplified during the pandemic, the report said.

Climate change poses a serious threat, with storms increasing in frequency and intensity. Scientists predict a significant increase in hurricane risks in the coming decades, with some predicting an increase of about 30% over the next decade.

Key findings from a recent hurricane report from CoreLogic, a provider of real estate data analytics, show that nearly 8 million single-family and multi-family homes nationwide with more than $1.9 trillion in combined reconstruction costs are at risk of a storm surge.

“People continue to migrate to these affordable coastal areas, but their low-lying locations seriously endanger homeowners,” the report states.

At the state level, Florida, Louisiana and New York have the highest number of homes at risk from storm surge and hurricane winds. Many lower-income communities may not have the ability to afford insurance or understand the financial risk of hurricane damage.

Rising sea levels, increasing rainfall from tropical cyclones, and increasing frequency of tropical cyclones are all factors of climate change that contribute to the intensification of hurricanes.

The Resilient Tampa report states that rising sea levels increasingly endanger critical urban infrastructure, as well as homes and businesses.

The city registered $4.5 billion in permitted construction in 2020, up from $3.1 billion in 2019. The jump represents a 45 percent increase, marking one of Tampa’s periods of fastest growth in such a short duration. Tampa had more residents in 2020 than any year in the past decade except 2016, which Pyjama People said contributed to the housing shortage.

Tampa also faces the serious health effects of prolonged periods of extreme heat. By the middle of this century, the city has the potential to face four full months with a heat index exceeding 100 degrees, creating unsafe outdoor working conditions for many residents.

The plan also aims to improve opportunities and economic mobility for urban residents. “While Tampa’s economy is starting to improve, there is more work to be done to ensure a fair recovery for all residents,” the report states. “The lowest-earning Tampanians continue to be plagued by the economic impact of Covid-19, with their employment rate falling 15.5% in January 2021 compared to January 2020.”

The report adds: “The impact of the pandemic on black and Hispanic communities also exacerbates the long-standing racial inequality that has persisted in Tampa and other U.S. cities. Residents of color are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty and 20 percentage points less likely to own their homes than white Tampanians and earn only 60% of the latter’s average wage.

The report recommends measures such as developing a workforce, creating common land trust to ensure more affordable housing is built, increasing access to and use of Tampa’s regional transportation network, investing in green and open spaces that counteract extreme heat and flooding, improve access to long-term career paths for young residents, reduce poverty by connecting Tampanians to quality jobs and accelerate asset-building opportunities and broadband adoption, especially in communities with a minority majority.

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