Despite disappointing election results locally, we are lucky to have state and national leaders who understand that climate change, housing affordability, and issues of environmental justice have profound impacts on our communities and environment. City council members like Zahra Roach and Kate Moran call for responsible growth in Pasco and West Richland, respectively. Kennewick’s Steve Lee is concerned about the lack of affordable housing. Richland is lacking a strong voice for these issues. But no one in our area should settle for poor planning and unfair housing situations. We have the opportunity to transform the lives of Washingtonians and the natural environment around us.
Issues surrounding the environment, race, poverty, and public health are tightly intertwined. We must work together to build community, create affordable housing policy, and prevent disproportionate impacts of local pollution on communities of Color. In Pasco, despite several positive changes, their current growth plan will concentrate the densest (most affordable) housing near the railroad yards and airport, rather than distributing it throughout the urban core. In a nutshell, that’s environmental racism. There is overwhelming proof that Black and Brown people have higher rates of asthma, and that has led to more outbreaks of COVID-19.
As it stands, Washington’s Growth Management Act (GMA)—the law that governments use to ‘plan’ for how they grow—doesn’t require city or county long term community plans to adequately address affordable housing, climate change, or issues of social and racial equality. We have a brief window to make critical changes to the GMA which will require cities and counties to address these issues in their 20-year Comprehensive Plans.
The nonprofit Futurewise launched a grass-roots campaign, Washington Can’t Wait, to make the most significant changes to the GMA in 30 years. Futurewise works collaboratively with a broad coalition of frontline communities, residents, and organizational partners. During the next legislative session, starting in January, they will call for changes to the GMA to address climate change, housing affordability, and environmental justice.
We have a local group of dedicated smart growth advocates who regularly attend (virtually right now, of course) city planning commission and council meetings. They comment on plans and proposals and demand safer streets, bike lanes, affordable housing, etc., working to ensure a safer future for all residents. However, having such requirements in the legal framework for our state would hold our community decision makers to higher standards.
To learn about how you can support local efforts to create a more equitable and climate-resilient community, join the Smart Growth SE Washington Facebook group.
Consider joining the Futurewise team on Thursday, December 10, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. to learn more about the Washington Can’t Wait campaign. Look for more details and registration info on the Smart Growth Facebook group, or on Sustainable Tri-Cities website at alsctc.org.
Help Futurewise strengthen the Growth Management Act and build more resilient communities by addressing growth-related issues like affordable housing, transit, clean water, and wildfire prevention. This update to the Growth Management Act will protect our community and natural resources as the climate changes. It will improve local economic stability by providing a diversity of affordable homes to teachers, childcare workers, and so many other vital members of our community. Together, we can say goodbye to past exclusionary policies and provide everyone with opportunities to live in a neighborhood that truly works for them and their families.