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Climate adaptation in urban areas : What motivates property owners to implement green infrastructure?

Deure, D. van der (2023) Climate adaptation in urban areas : What motivates property owners to implement green infrastructure?

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Abstract:The negative impacts of climate change lead to one of the largest challenges which the world is currently facing. Especially urban areas are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. To deal with these effects, urban areas need to become climate adaptive. One of the measures for climate adaptation is the implementation of green infrastructure. That means more greenery (e.g. trees, shrubs, green roofs) needs to be planted in the urban area. Municipalities have a large responsibility for the implementation of green infrastructure. Within these practices, they are highly dependent on the private sector, because a large part of an urban area is owned by private actors. However, currently, the private sector is insufficiently involved. Municipalities face challenges on how to improve private sector engagement. Therefore, more insights into the motivations of the private sector are needed to know how they can participate or be involved. In literature, stakeholder participation in climate adaptation (including green infrastructure implementation) is already a topic of discussion. Various studies look into motivations and barriers, and some suggest how private sector involvement can be improved. However, some aspects of this topic are still being undiscussed. First, current research mainly focuses on the private sector or citizens in general and does not distinguish different types of stakeholders. Second, they discuss motivations and drivers only in general terms. The perceived value of climate adaptation remains unclear. This research states that insights into the values of different types of private actors can help to better understand their motivations. Subsequently, these insights can help to better involve them in green infrastructure practices. Therefore, this research focusses on two types of property owners: house owners and housing corporations. Based on the practical problem and scientific relevance, the research question is: What types of values motivate house owners and housing corporations to implement green infrastructure in privately owned urban areas? Two theoretical concepts are important for this research, green infrastructure and values, which can be combined into a conceptual framework. To start, the definition for green infrastructure is ‘a network of natural and semi-natural areas, including both green and blue spaces, in urban areas to deliver multiple values to urban communities’. Green infrastructure is known for its wide variety of benefits, which can be categorised into climate adaptation, environment, health and wellbeing, social, and economic. Further, some potential motivators and demotivators for green infrastructure implementation can be listed, based on previous findings. A motivator can for example be interest in gardening and a demotivator can be financial constraints. Secondly, six different types of values can be distinguished: use value, ecological value, exchange value, economic value, professional value, and social value. Each type of value has a theoretical definition and a working definition. The conceptual framework links the benefits, motivators, and demotivators of green infrastructure to the different value types. This forms the theoretical base for this research. A neighbourhood in Zandvoort (Netherlands) functions as a case for the data collection. Interviews were performed with house owners and the housing corporation, located in this urban area. These interviews were used to investigate what their (de)motivations are for the implementation of green infrastructure. The main part of the interview consisted of statements about benefits, motivators, and demotivators. Each statement was linked to one of the six value types. Respondents were asked whether the topic of a statement plays a role in their decision to implement green infrastructure in private space. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analysed. In total, 29 house owners were interviewed. 26 of them are interested in green in their garden and 3 are not. The main motivation is based on use value (aesthetic, pleasure/comfort) and for some house owners also use value (health) and ecological value are a motivation. Exchange value, economic value, professional value, and social value do not play a role in the consideration of house owners. Lastly, there are only limited values that influence the demotivation of house owners. One that does play a small role is use value (physical hindrance, time). Additional explanationsthat were given by the house owners, provided extra insights. For example, it demonstrated their lack of awareness of climate change impacts. Three employees of the housing corporation participated in the interviews. Green infrastructure is not the main priority for the housing corporation, however, they are working on improvements. A Green team has been created, which investigates potential sustainable projects for the housing corporation. The answers by the three respondents varied for many topics, which made it complex to abstract clear results. Overall, the motivations of the housing corporation are based on use value (aesthetic, pleasure/comfort, health), ecological value and professional value. The latter plays a role in the demotivation as well, together with economic value. Further, use value (physical hindrance, time), exchange value, and social value play no, or a limited role in the decisions on green infrastructure. Lastly, the housing corporation is interested in cooperation with the municipality and renters, because it makes green infrastructure implementation less complex and financially more attractive. A comparison of the values demonstrates that there are similarities as well as differences between the two types of property owners. One of the surprising insights is the unimportance of economic and social value for house owners. This is in contrast with previous findings and contradicts the current financial support that is provided by several municipalities. Further, a lack of knowledge was observed for the majority of the property owners. This lack of knowledge is (consciously and unconsciously) of large influence on their decisions to (not) implement green infrastructure. Based on the characteristics of the neighbourhood, the case is comparable with other urban areas in the Netherlands. Further, the interest in green is comparable with the average interest of Dutch citizens, although the respondents of this research were slightly more positive. In the research, only two types of stakeholders are included, while an urban area can include several types of stakeholders. Therefore, it is recommended to include a broad variety of property owners in future studies. Based on the findings of the case study, municipalities are recommended to involve different types of stakeholders in different ways. The following five recommendations are therefore dedicated to house owners or the housing corporation specifically. First, it is recommended to not have a main focus on financial support for house owners. Third, house owners should be informed about the effects of climate change and possible solutions. Fourth, it is recommended to create social cohesion in order to benefit from its potential positive effect on green infrastructure implementation. Fifth, it is recommended to provide financial support for the housing corporation. Sixth and last, cooperation with the housing corporation should be promoted and enhanced.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Programme:Civil Engineering and Management MSc (60026)
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