You Can Tell The Difference Between Rich And Poor Neighborhoods By Looking At Their Roofs

Port RichmondThis satellite image of Port Richmond, a working class neighbourhood in Philadelphia, shows many light roofing systems

Photo: Google Earth

The best way to tell the difference between rich and poor neighborhoods might not be looking at trees but at the roof over our heads. Light-coloured roofing, which caught on in the early 2000s, cools down homes easily and reduces the need for A/C. But such roofs are all but nonexistent in Philadelphia’s low-income and working class neighborhoods, says city blogger Christopher Sawyer. The reason relates to home ownership

“Dark roofing predominates in zones where building occupants are renting. Specifically: privately-owned low income rental. Because the property owner usually is not paying the electricity bill, there’s no direct incentive for the landlord to install a cool roof, as there’s no return on investment to the property owner because the owner doesn’t have a light bill to pay so long as there is a tenant inside.” 

The question, then, is how public officials can get landlords on board with installing lighter roofs to make their buildings more energy efficient. As Sawyer points out, cutting energy consumption would help the poor by lowering their utility bills, and free up money that could be put toward installing more light roofing systems. Even better, they could be used to plant more trees. 

Now see what wealth inequality looks like from outer space > 

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