Human Impact Statements

41 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2015

See all articles by Marc Lane Roark

Marc Lane Roark

The Savannah Law School; Southern University Law Center

Date Written: April 8, 2015

Abstract

When a city undertakes a development project, low income and homeless persons face risks of expulsion. Public and private developers often target low-income neighborhoods and public lands because those spaces are viewed as economically more attainable or available for development. Moreover, the legal system's preference to treat disputes as individual entitlement claims tends to relegate disputes to broad questions of entitlements rather than unpacking the impacts that property changes have on the vulnerable populations. Whether by gentrification or by enhancement of city infrastructure, developer decisions disrupt what are already unstable living environments by imposing increased costs of relocation. These changes also destabilize community relationships by separating individuals and families from their support networks, local transportation options, and local employment that they have come to rely on. In short, low-income and homeless persons find themselves even more destabilized when public and private development projects force their evacuation from where they live. This article argues that though development may be necessary, it should not be undertaken without more serious evaluation of the human impacts in relation to the space. Such evaluations should include the impact on communities, employment, education, and environment for impacted persons. Importantly, failure to take notice of these impacts continues to promote cycles of poverty that plague American cities.

Drawing on similarities in the environmental context, the article argues that a NEPA-like approach to human housing can offset externalities that homeless persons and those living in low-income housing are forced to internalize through environment changes. Amongst those impacts are the imbalance between the well-funded developer and low income populations; the view that low income properties can be classified as nuisance-type properties; and the tendency to only consider the highest best use of property as the rationale for development. The article concludes by offering model legislation that could be implemented to provide a NEPA like assessment to city development.

Keywords: NEPA, Environmental, Housing, Homeless, Low-Income, Gentrification, urban development, zoning, highest best use

Suggested Citation

Roark, Marc L., Human Impact Statements (April 8, 2015). Washburn Law Journal, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2592262

Marc L. Roark (Contact Author)

The Savannah Law School ( email )

516 Drayton Street
Savannah, GA 31401
United States

Southern University Law Center ( email )

2 Roosevelt Steptoe Dr.
Baton Rouge, LA 70813
United States

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