Large-scale new developments can exacerbate the climate divide, Kipp continues, and it’s “unethical” to keep building new communities whilst existing ones don’t have basic weatherproofing.
“How do we make sure these frontline, marginalised neighbourhoods can remain in the communities they’ve lived in for so long? Can we build communities in a way that integrates equity, environmental justice and affordable sustainability. That would be the holy grail, and I haven’t seen that yet.”
It’s a concern for Joanne Pérodin, senior director of climate equity at the Cleo Institute, a Miami-based nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about the climate crisis.
“While [these properties] showcase how renewable energy, green spaces, and modern infrastructure can be integrated, there is the issue of exclusivity,” she says. “The main barrier for low-income communities [that is] preventing access to this modern way of living is affordability. Addressing affordability concerns should be prioritised to ensure inclusivity and fairness.”
Although Kitson counters this issue, saying that Babcock Ranch offers homes in the high $200,000 (£158,344) range and in order to be sustainable, “you have to have a variety of housing types and prices”, Pérodin points out that the real estate market is still a system geared towards the wealthy.
“Regardless of how new community developments like Babcock Ranch price their products, mortgage interest rates diminish the opportunity for low-income communities,” she adds. “New community development can have ripple effects on their surroundings by driving up the cost of living in that region.”
Developments that share Kitson’s vision show no sign of slowing down, though – and even Babcock Ranch is still expanding. It may be the blueprint for now, but it won’t be the standard for long – so Kitson hopes. “I’ve had developers from all over the world call and ask if they’d be able to use our playbook. The ultimate goal for me would be for people to not only look at what we do and copy it, but to do it better.
“That would be the greatest compliment in the world.”
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