Case Studies

Case Study: Living Cully

A diverse neighborhood in northeast Portland fighting displacement has been employing sustainability as an anti-poverty technique. A coalition of four local community groups offers job training, affordable housing, training workshops and advocacy in the neighborhood.

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Case Study: Los Angeles' Green New Deal

Los Angeles’ Green New Deal plan sets ambitious goals to create net-zero carbon buildings, a completely electrified transportation system, 100% waste diversion and waste water recycling, along with creation of 400,000 green jobs. An inclusive climate action criterion is...

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Case Study: California's AHSC Program

California's Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program (AHSC) funds projects to support infill and compact development that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Eligible activities include creating and preserving affordable housing...

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Reports, Media Stories & Best Practices

Below is a repository of reports, media stories and best practices that show what progress can be achieved through the strategies outlined by the Urban Opportunity Agenda. If you know of a report, media story or example of this strategy being utilized please email for consideration.

Report: New Report Reveals How AHSC Addresses California's Most Pressing Challenges

Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities
December 2019

California: Today, the California Housing Partnership released a new policy brief -- co-authored with Enterprise Community Partners -- that documents the substantial community and environmental benefits made possible by the first four rounds of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program. By requiring coordination of housing, transportation, and land use planning, AHSC simultaneously and holistically addresses three of California's most pressing challenges: housing affordability, transportation, and climate change mitigation. To date, the program has awarded $1.1 billion to 101 integrated housing and transportation developments across California. view report »

Job Access and Transportation,
Leveraging Infrastructure Investment Jobs

Best Practice: Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

Buffalo, NY: Transportation Management Associations, like GO BNMC at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus in New York, are member-run organizations that allow employers to provide transportation services. GO BNMC was able to access hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, and 5 percent fewer employees drove alone in the program’s first year, saving themselves money and reducing parking demand.

Strategy: Job Access and Transportation

Best Practice: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority

Pinellas County, FL: Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, under the Transportation Disadvantaged program provides qualifying county residents (household income less than 150% of poverty) 23 free Uber rides between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am. The rides have to begin or end at a residence or place of employment. The late shift program is in addition to discounted bus passes, to be used beyond bus service hours.

Strategy: Job Access and Transportation

Best Practice: Boston's Seaport District

Boston, MA: Boston's Seaport District, a former industrial area filled with abandoned warehouses and parking lots is now a thriving employment, cultural and residential neighborhood. In 2010, the I-90 & I-93 interchange opened which improved access to Seaport District. A bus rapid line allows for speedy trips to the downtown and beyond. The District employs over 28,000 people and is home to many large employers, such as Vertex Pharmaceuticals, PricewaterhouseCoopers and most recently GE, who relocated their headquarters from a suburban location.

Strategy: Attract + Create Jobs

Best Practice: Chicago Fulton Market

Chicago, IL: Chicago's Fulton Market neighborhood has rapidly changed since the 2010s - what was previously a low-density industrial warehouse district is now an office and residential development. McDonald's headquarters, a 490,000 square feet building is among the largest employers, with Google and other tech firm also moving in.

Strategy: Attract + Create Jobs

Best Practice: South Bend's Industrial Building Renovation

South Bend, IN: South Bend, Indiana renovated an old industrial building vacated by a car manufacturer in the 1960s into a technology hub. Current residents of the 800,000 square feet space include a data storage & analytics firm, biotech and tech firms. The adaptive reuse of the building has received $14.6 million from city, state and federal investment.

Strategy: Attract + Create Jobs

Best Practice: Clean Energy Works

Portland, OR: Portland's Clean Energy Works pilot program aligned renewable energy, energy savings and job creation. The program helped finance up-front costs of energy efficiency upgrades for homeowners through long-term and low-interest loans. To ensure equity for disadvantaged and underrepresented populations in job and economic opportunities through the implementation of the program, the City, with a diverse group of stakeholders, developed a community workforce agreement.

The program created employment for more than 400 workers, including 48 new hires, at average wages of nearly $20.34 per hour. Also, more than $6 million was paid to contractors, 584 low-interest loans were provided, 20 percent or greater reduction in energy consumption was achieved, and 1,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions are reduced annually.

Strategy: Energy + Water Efficiency Jobs

Media Story: L.A. Mayor Garcetti’s ‘Green New Deal’ Would Phase Out Gas-fueled Cars

L.A. Times
April 29, 2019

Los Angeles, CA: The mayor’s sustainability plan imagines a city where, by the mid-2030s, 80% of the cars run on electricity or zero-emission fuel, 80% of the electricity comes from renewable sources and Angelenos drive 2,000 fewer miles each year than they do now. It’s a far cry from today’s L.A., where gridlock, tailpipe pollution and smoggy air have come to define a way of life. view story »

Energy + Water Efficiency Jobs
Household Expense Reduction,
Mining the Waste Stream,
Workforce Development with Employer Engagement

Best Practice: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

Los Angeles, CA: In 1992, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) implemented water rate reform that incorporated conservation pricing and tiered water rates. A 2018 white paper found that LADWP avoided roughly $11 billion in costs from 1990 to 2016 resulting in customer bills that are nearly 27% lower today than they would have been without efficient rates and conservation efforts. Customers reduced water use from 189 gallons per capita per day (gpcd) to 106 gpcd from 1990 to 2016.

Between 2009 and 2011, the City of Los Angeles invested over $1.2 billion in water use efficiency projects. A study by non-profit Economic Roundtable found that the investments stimulated 16,579 total person-years of employment (8,654 direct person-years of employment, 3,016 indirect person-years of employment, 4,909 induced person-years of employment). For every $1 million invested, water-use-efficiency projects create 12.6 to 16.6 jobs with mean annual wages that range from $33,286 to $52,828. The investment stimulated an additional $534 million in indirect sales and $718 million in induced sales.

Strategy: Energy + Water Efficiency Jobs

Best Practice: AlabamaWISE

Huntsville, AL: The AlabamaWISE program in Huntsville helps local homeowners reduce their energy costs through energy efficient upgrades. The program targets homeowners of modest means and partners with a Credit Union to offer two-year low-interest loans to pay for the upgrades. The program also includes workforce development, renewable energy, and local economic development components. The pilot program created over 30 direct jobs, over $1 million in energy savings, and over $8.5 million of homeowner investment in energy efficiency upgrades. Overall, the program has upgraded over 5 million square feet of building space, saved over 23 million kWh, and helped over 1700 homeowners save an average of 20% in energy (representing $2.3 million savings in energy costs).

Strategy: Energy + Water Efficiency Jobs

Report: Advancing inclusion through clean energy jobs

April 18, 2019

Workers in clean energy earn higher and more equitable wages when compared to all workers nationally. Mean hourly wages exceed national averages by 8 to 19 percent. Clean energy economy wages are also more equitable; workers at lower ends of the income spectrum can earn $5 to $10 more per hour than other jobs. view annual report »

Strategy: Energy + Water Efficiency Jobs

Report: 11 Jobs per Million Dollars of Investment

Elevate Energy
April 18, 2019

Elevate Energy estimates that 11 jobs are created for every million dollars of investment in energy and water efficiency jobs. view report »

Strategy: Energy + Water Efficiency Jobs

Best Practice: Branches

Miami, FL: In Miami, Branches provides individuals and families with financial coaching, free tax preparation, benefits enrollment, employment assistance, and credit counseling to Miami-Dade residents. The organization's goal is to help their clients develop a road map towards financial independence. Coaches customize their services to meet each client's needs, help clients set goals, monitor the client's progress, and provides support along the way. In 2016, an Urban Institute study found that participants reduced debt by $10,000, reported an increase sense of confidence in their finances and reduced feelings of financial stress. Adding expense reduction strategies to programs such as this can increase their impact even more.

Strategy: Household Expense Reduction

Media Story: When Green Infrastructure Is an Anti-Poverty Strategy

Next City
July 8, 2019

Portland, OR: In Portland, inspiring stories of how resident leaders — mostly lower-income, non-English-speaking, stay-at-home mothers — push for change in their community. view story »

Affordable Infill Rental Housing,
Household Expense Reduction,
Leveraging Infrastructure Investment Jobs

Best Practice: Compass Working Capital

Boston, MA: Compass Working Capital, a non-profit organization providing asset building coaching to households particpating in HUD's rental assistance programs. The Family Self-Sufficiency program is a HUD program to improve financial security through case management and escrow savings account. Compass administered FSS in Lynn, MA and Cambridge, MA and a study found that partcipants saw annual household earnings increase by $6,305, decreased debts and improved credit scores, between 2010 & 2016. The organization has recently teamed up with Boston Housing Authority to provide similar coaching to its participants.

Strategy: Household Expense Reduction

Report: More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the U.S.


This study provides strong evidence that an enhanced national recycling and composting strategy in the United States can significantly and sustainably address critical national priorities including climate change, lasting job creation, and improved health. view report »

Strategy: Leveraging Infrastructure Investment Jobs

Best Practice: Metropolitan Transit Authority

Los Angeles, CA: Metropolitan Transit Authority, Los Angeles' public transit agency has a targeted hiring requirement in certain local and federally funded construction projects (that cost more than $2.5 million). According to the labor agreement created in 2013, 40% of the workers must be residents of economically disadvantaged areas (zipcodes with median incomes less than $40,000), 10% disadvantaged workers (homeless, single parent, criminal record, etc.), and 20% apprentice participation.

Strategy: Leveraging Infrastructure Investment Jobs

Best Practice: Verde Landscape

Portland, OR: Verde Landscape began as a program to provide employment to residents of an affordable housing building and has expanded to other low-income residents of Cully, a Latinx neighborhoods facing displacement threat in Portland. The four-year intensive training program teaches soft and hard skills to trainees while paying them living wages.

Strategy: Leveraging Infrastructure Investment Jobs

Report: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Estimates $92,000 in Government Spending Creates One Job-year

White House Archives
May, 2009

The estimates for the job-years created by direct government spending indicate that it takes approximately $92,000 of spending to create one job-year. Since most workers earn much less than $92,000 a year, the figure of $92,000 per jobyear may seem large. The source of the gap between average wages and the cost per job-year is that the increase in GDP resulting from stimulus does not all take the form of wages for newlyemployed workers. Some workers switch from part-time to full-time; some find their existing time at their jobs more fully utilized; and some add overtime. Further, there are increases in compensation costs other than wages, and in rents, profits, and other types of non-compensation 5 income. A useful comparison is that the ratio of annual GDP to total employment in the economy is about $105,000. Thus, a figure of $92,000 per job-year is plausible and represents a very reasonable “bang for the buck.” view report »

Strategy: Leveraging Infrastructure Investment Jobs

Best Practice: Landforce

Pittsburgh, PA: Landforce provides a 6 month traineeship in workforce training, land stewardship, financial empowerment. Works with other employers to identify future employment opportunities for the trainees. Wraparound services provided such as paying childcare support, getting drivers license etc.

Strategy: Leveraging Infrastructure Investment Jobs

Best Practice: MSD's JobLink

Louisville, KY: Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), is working with local partners to create a diverse workforce by evaluating workforce needs depending on their capital investment plan. Along with training, mentorship programs and hiring from women and minority businesses, MSD has created a consolidated online tool, JobLink. The tool matches contarctors with local trained workers in the water sector.

Strategy: Leveraging Infrastructure Investment Jobs

Best Practice: Community Action Project

Tulsa, OK: Community Action Project, Tulsa links quality Head Start services for kids with career support and training for parents so that they can build careers in nursing or other related health care fields, jobs that are likely to lead to higher earnings and stable jobs. Career Advance is a free intensive training program that offers life and career coaching, education, and financial incentives so that parents can obtain well-paying jobs with benefits. A quasi-experimental study, conducted primarily by Northwestern University and published in the Russel Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, comparing Career Advance participants with parents who only received Head Start services found that after one year, 61% of participants attained a career certificate compared to 3% of parents who only received Head Start services. The study also estimated that the benefit-cost ratio of the program within a five-year window to be 1.3. If the window is extended to a 10-year time frame the ratio is estimated to increase to 7.9.

Strategy: Childcare Entrepreneurship Jobs

Best Practice: Child Care Linkage Program

Santa Monica, CA: Santa Monica's Child Care Linkage Program, through a city ordinance, requires new developments to create child care centers or pay a fee to the city to help offset the increased demand for childcare that development generates. Funds are restricted to property acquisition, development, and construction of child care facilities, and do not include funds for operating expenses and general maintenance of facilities. However, the City does use General Fund monies to subsidize childcare for low-income families and childcare facilities are often exempt from costly planning fees. As of June 30, 2017, developers paid $2.6 million in fees.

Strategy: Childcare Entrepreneurship Jobs

Best Practice: ChildCare Ventures

Santa Cruz County, CA: In Santa Cruz County, the ChildCare Ventures collaborative worked with multiple stakeholders to encourage a more sustainable child care industry. The County offered grants and other services to help increase licensed childcare slots. Faith-based organizations and foundations help subsidize childcare services through in-kind donations, start-up funding, and funding for equipment and management assistance. The Santa Cruz Community Credit Union offered low-interest micro loans to qualifying childcare centers and family childcare homes. The County also raised funds to support child care through developer impact fees and helped reduce land use and permitting barriers for childcare facilities.

Strategy: Childcare Entrepreneurship Jobs

Best Practice: Fresh Food Retailer Initiative

New Orleans, LA: The New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI) was developed in response to post-Katrina conditions that left many communities without grocery stores. The program provides forgivable loans and/or interest-baring loans to grocery outlets or supermarket operators who locate their stores in underserved areas. Some of the requirements include: locating in areas with below average food market sales in low-to-moderate income census tracks; a minimum of 15% or 24 linear feet of store shelf-space dedicated to fresh produce; and working with the city to complete an environmental impact statement. The loans can be used to finance pre-development, site preparation, construction, equipment, staff training, security, or inventory. The program which began in 2011 created 209 jobs across 4 financed projects and has improved healthy food access to 47,400 low and moderate income residents.

Strategy: Food Security Jobs

Best Practice: DC Central Kitchen

Washington, DC: DC Central Kitchen trains jobless adults in culinary careers using food waste from local restaurants to cook healthy food for shelters and nonprofits. In 2017, the organization employed 168 people of which 77 were culinary job training graduates. New hires get paid at least $14.25 an hour, a $1 over DC's minimum wage.

Strategy: Food Security Jobs

Best Practice: Green Cart Initiative

New York, NY: New York City's Green Cart Initiative is a street-vending strategy that sells fruits and vegetables through mobile food carts in neighborhoods with limited access to healthy foods. The program offered 1,000 permits to vendors with the goal to increase points of purchase for fresh produce. Vendors must pay $53 for a food protection course and $50 for the permit, as well as buy their own carts and produce.

According to the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, after a year of implementation the program provided jobs for 900 people (the program had 524 active cart permits). A 2011 study by Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) found 71% of customers reported increases in consumption of fresh produce.

Strategy: Food Security Jobs

Best Practice: Good Eggs & Farmstead

Bay Area, CA: Good Eggs and Farmstead are two online grocery platforms based in Bay Area, California that provide home delivery of locally sourced, fresh produce and products from local farms, grocers, and bakers. As part of its sustainability mission, Good Eggs partners with local producers who employ year round staff, who are paid a steady income and benefits. All their packing material is reusable, recyclable or compostable.

Strategy: Food Security Jobs

Best Practice: Taste the Local Difference

Michigan: Taste the Local Difference, a Michigan based organization is a local food marketing agency that helps farmers promote their produce and educates consumers on where to buy local food. The agency began as a program to promote local food within the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities in 2004 and was recently purchased by a venture capital firm. In addition to printed marketing materials, TLD provides farmers and food producers services to create websites, social media marketing, guidance to participate in events, etc. The annually produced "Guide to Local Food" features farm, farmers markets, retail stores and other materials on local foods. They also maintain a website and mobile app that provides information on local restaurants using local produce.

Strategy: Food Security Jobs

Report: Workforce Training Partnership with Local Trade Unions Help Develop Career Pipeline in Madison

2017 Annual Report

Madison, Wisconsin: WRTP/BIG STEP programs placed 135 individuals into jobs at 71 different companies, with an average wage of $17.28/hour. The average age of placement was 30 years old. Of the 135 individuals placed, minorities represented 32% of the total. view annual report »

Strategy: Workforce Development

Best Practice: Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative

Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky: Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative is a group of 12 community and technical colleges in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky, along with 18 automotive manufacturing companies. The collaborative designs curriculum to meet industry needs and conducts regular assessments to ensure the relevancy of the training provided. The initiative began with funding from National Science Foundation in 2006.

Strategy: Workforce Development

Best Practice: College Employer Collaborative

College Employer Collaborative (CEC) consists of 16 private companies (AT&T, American Express, Boeing, Cisco System, eBay, among others) and 7 community colleges nationwide. The employers have identified under-developed and in high demand courses which the comunity colleges offer. Students undergoing training in the identified areas are at an advantage of securing jobs that are well-paying.

Strategy: Workforce Development

Best Practice: Apprentice Carolina

South Carolina: Apprentice Carolina, SC, a state program housed in the South Carolina Technical College System has been recognized by the US Dept of Labor as a national model for apprenticeship expansion. The program devises a 2 part apprenticeship - on the job training and technical education at the local community college. Comapanies also receive a four-year $1,000 tax credit per apprentice. Over 31,000 students have graduated from the program since 2007 with participation from over 990 companies.

Strategy: Workforce Development

Best Practice: Rebuilding Exchange

Chicago, IL: Rebuilding Exchange, a Chicago non-profit established in 2009 repurposes building materials and provides job training for people who face barriers to employment. They offer 6 month courses that prepare people for intermediate positions in warehousing and retail sectors.

Strategy: Mining the Waste Stream

Best Practice: United Teen Equality Center

Lowell, MA: UTEC in Lowell, MA is an organization that works with youth with a history of incarceration and serious criminal activity. One of its three social enterprises is the UTEC Mattress Recycling program that provides training to deconstruct and recycle mattresses. It is one of three Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection approved mattress recyclers.

Strategy: Mining the Waste Stream

Best Practice: Homeboy Recycling

Los Angeles, CA: Homeboy Recycling, an electronics recycling firm hires and trains ex-felons in an 18 month training period while paying them higher than minimum wage. Training is provided in refurbishing, reusing or dismantling components that are then returned to good use. With partnerships with companies like HP, Homebody Recycling employees 25 full-time employees and has recycled over 2 million pounds of e-waste.

Strategy: Mining the Waste Stream

Report: Creating Affordable Homes and Sustainable Communities: How AHSC Addresses California’s Most Pressing Challenges

California Housing Partnership, Enterprise Community Partners
December, 2019

California: The Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program integrates housing, transportation, climate, and workforce investments to provide substantial benefits to underserved Californians and their communities. This annual report summarizes AHSC’s impact both statewide and at the local level, and finds that the program is generating substantial environmental, health, housing, and socioeconomic benefits for California that will continue decades into the future. The data reveals that as the program has matured over its first four funding rounds, AHSC-funded developments have in turn provided deeper benefits to their surrounding communities and increased their effectiveness in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.view report »

Affordable Infill Rental Housing,
Household Expense Reduction,
Leveraging Infrastructure Investment Jobs,
Job Access + Transportation

Best Practice: Madison Community Cooperative

Madison, WI: Madison Community Cooperative (MCC), a non-profit housing cooperative houses 200 members across 11 properties in downtown Madison. Membership is made up of low to moderate income people and marginalized groups, ranging from university students to families. The rent including room, board and utilities averages around $535 per month.

Strategy: Affordable Infill Rental Housing

Best Practice: Petaluma Avenue Homes

California: Petaluma Avenue Homes is one of the first affordable rental cohousing communities in the US. Established in Sebastopol, CA in 2009 with funding from the city, county and low income housing tax credits, the 45 townhomes and apartments serve low income families and seniors. The 2.5 acre infill devleopment, is open to families making up to 60% of area median income.

Strategy: Affordable Infill Rental Housing

Best Practice: Chicago's SRO Buildings

Chicago, IL: City of Chicago, in a bid to preserve single room occupany (SRO) buildings, passed an ordinance in 2014 which provides affordable housing developers priority when SROs are available for purchase. The city ordinance also created a preservation strategy that mandates preservation of at least 700 affordable units by 2018. The initial seed money for the SRO Preservation Fund was fronted by the city, with funding in the future years expected to come from developers who convert SRO units into market rate units. According to a recent news article 1,500 units across 11 buildings have been preserved since 2014.

Strategy: Affordable Infill Rental Housing

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Next Steps

Communities can start implementing the Urban Opportunity Agenda today. We’ve broken a process down into some suggested steps to help local governments and institutions build on work already underway and free up resources to address poverty:

  • Think Differently — Consider how your community’s investments in infrastructure and economic development can cut household expenses, increasing sustainability, and create jobs for people currently living in poverty.
  • Learn from Others — The strategy, case study and resources pages on this site give examples of real-world programs. CNT is also interested in helping cities working on poverty and sustainability learn from each other. If you would like to connect to other cities working on these issues please reach out to Jen McGraw (
  • Change the Conversation — Are cost-of-living and poverty reduction mentioned in your sustainability goals and programs? Is the creation of good jobs for low income workers, accessible by transit part of your city’s planning documents?  
  • Find Partners: Usual and Otherwise — Which organizations in your community could scale up their impact? What programs could be adjusted to better address poverty and sustainability directly? Who hasn’t yet been invited to the table to help ensure investments create the most impact?
  • Go after Quick Wins — Look for low hanging fruit to build momentum toward your poverty reduction goal. Is there a project in the next fiscal year that could better address the needs of low-income residents? Are there commitments from local businesses to train disadvantaged workers that could be achieved in the near-term? Are there job centers that could have a bus line or employer shuttle to connect them to low income neighborhoods?
  • Measure Progress and Tell Stories of Success — Track and share the poverty reduction impact of your actions as well as the benefits for all residents and businesses.
  • Study Setbacks — Understanding a program that didn’t meet expectations may inspire the next successful approach.
  • Ask for Help — Local governments and institutions cannot tackle poverty alone. State and federal changes to realign investments and create enabling policies are essential.  

Although the Urban Opportunity Agenda approach presents a common framework for action, every city’s needs are unique. CNT has 40+ years of experience in turning ideas to action in communities, including planning, analysis, financing, policy, partnerships and program design. If you would like CNT’s help applying these ideas to your city, please reach out to Jen McGraw ( for more information.