2018 National Planning Conference

Building Equity into Resiliency Planning

Monday, April 23, 2018 from 10:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. CDT

Location: R02

CM | 1.25

Cost: Included in Registration

Activity Type: Educational Sessions

Activity ID: NPC188034


  • Why the current approach to cost-benefit analyses (CBAs) deliver projects that inherently favor higher-income areas
  • How to understand the equity-based value of money concept and how its inclusion in CBAs would change the results and, thus, what we build
  • How to apply the framework for this equity-based CBA approach to a resiliency-planning-related project in your city


Since the Flood Control Act of 1939, cost-benefit analysis (CBA) has provided a reliable framework from which planners could evaluate and scale flood-risk infrastructure projects. In general, costs are calculated based on the investment requirements of different project alternatives, and benefits are measured by projected flood damages avoided over a discrete amount of time. Fundamental to CBA is the principle of time-value of money whereby a dollar held today is more valuable than an identical amount sometime in the future. Overlooked, however, is the principle of equity-weighted value of money whereby a dollar held by someone from a lower socioeconomic level is more valuable than an identical amount held by someone from a higher socioeconomic level. By not implementing equity weights in CBA, planners unfairly justify flood-defense projects with higher levels of protection in wealthier areas based on the greater amount of value at risk relative to poorer communities. Applying this principle correctly balances the scales and yields more equitable flood-defense systems. The objective of this session will be to share research examining equity-weighted benefits as a best practice for planning flood defenses using sea-level-rise projects in Boston as a real-world example.

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Session Speakers

Derek Ouyang
San Francisco, CA

Emily Marsh
Harvard University, Graduate School of Design
Cambridge, MA

Jack Hogan
Oakland, CA

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