Making Developers Pay: Why Environmental Regulations Hit Real Estate Hard

When the Initiative 300 movement began, it received a lot of opposition from local developers. Many claimed that incentives would be better, and that is was unfair to enforce or impose the installation of a green roof on large real estate projects. Some developers, such as Kyle Zeppelin, supported the Initiative. A long time implementer of green roofs, Zeppelin claims that beyond the environmental benefits, the green roofs add value to the projects and are more attractive to potential renters and buyers (1).

But should the cost of environmental and social impacts be imposed on developers? A study conducted by the SETO Lab at Yale University on the environmental impacts of urban growth stated that “the conversion of Earth’s land surface to urban uses is one of the most irreversible human impacts on the global biosphere (2).” It claims that the rapid loss of productive farmland, loss of biodiversity, and loss of vegetation will contribute to a rapidly changing climate. It can also cause environmental stressors for urban residents such as the Urban Heat Island effect, increase in air pollution, and a decrease in access to healthy food and clean water. And then there’s the flooding.

For instance the disastrous flooding in Houston, TX  following Hurricane Harvey was a lot less about weathering the storm and much more about city’s design(3). Too many impervious surfaces and a lack of restrictions on developers building in floodplains cost residents and disaster relief organizations an estimated $180 billion (3). The $180 billion is paid by citizens and not developers who created the concrete city.  

Green roofs are an excellent stormwater mitigation strategy, reduce the Urban Heat Island effect, and improve air quality. They can also be used for urban farming, reducing the loss of farmland cause by urban sprawl. Denver is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, and we have an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of other large metropolis areas. We can set a standard for urban development that won’t cost taxpayers a fortune down the road.

By enforcing regulations and ordinances that ensure developers are investing in environmental mitigation strategies, local governments are protecting the city’s future. A future that includes positive growth and development, which helps developer’s bottom line. In order to solve our largest climate problems and ensure our cities future, everyone has to help.   

Sources:

  1. https://crej.com/news/green-roofs-supported-by-zeppelin/

  2. https://urban.yale.edu/research/theme-4

  3. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/08/why-cities-flood/538251/

  4. http://fortune.com/2017/09/03/hurricane-harvey-damages-cost/