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Sen. Sanders and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez roll out Green New Deal for Public Housing

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Nov 26, 2019 - 9:59:15 PM

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WASHINGTON—Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DNY) recently introduced the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, with public housing residents, affordable housing advocates, and climate change activists in front of the Capital.

Carrie Fuller, policy fellow with the Climate Justice Alliance, speaks at Nov. 14 press conference flanked by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act.

“Faced with the global crisis of climate change, the United States must lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy,” said Sen. Sanders. “But let us be clear: as Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez understands, the Green New Deal is not just about climate change. It is an economic plan to create millions of good-paying jobs, strengthen our infrastructure, and invest in our country’s frontline and vulnerable communities,” he said.

“This bill shows that we can address our climate and affordable housing crises by making public housing a model of efficiency, sustainability and resiliency. Importantly, the working people who have been most impacted by decades of disinvestment in public housing will be empowered to lead this effort and share in the economic prosperity that it generates for our country,” added the longtime senator and Democratic presidential candidate.

The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act invests up to $180 billion over 10 years in sustainable retrofits that include all needed repairs, vastly improved health, safety and comfort, and eliminates carbon emissions in federal public housing.

The legislation also provides funding to electrify all buildings, add solar panels, and secure renewable energy sources for all public housing energy needs. The bill dramatically improves living conditions for nearly two million people living in roughly one million public homes.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 40 percent of public housing units are headed by a person 65 years old or older, most of whom live alone (88 percent). Households with children comprise 43 percent of public housing. A slight majority of these families (56 percent) are single-parent households.

Forty-eight percent of public housing households are Black compared to only 19 percent of all renter households.

Carrie Fuller, a policy fellow with the Climate Justice Alliance, a group made up of over 70 member organizations, led by Black, Brown and indigenous people, told the crowd of about 100 in front of the Capital on Nov. 21 why she supports “The Green New Deal”, for Public Housing.

“We believe in a world where public housing residents no longer live in the shadow of polluting industry. The front lines on environmental and climate justice can be the leaders of the clean and just regenerative economy of our future,” said Ms. Fuller.

“Surrounded by polluting industries on the South Side of Chicago, today approximately 70 percent of public housing in America is within one mile of an extremely polluted (also known as) Superfund site. The majority of public housing properties are over 40 years old and in dire need of repairs. Climate changes many of you know exacerbate these issues and increases resident vulnerability to extreme temperatures and natural disasters,” she added.

Close to 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption comes from residential and commercial buildings. The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act will offer weatherization, retrofitting, and renewable energy, making properties more cost effective and attractive throughout the country.

The legislation is expected to create nearly 250,000 good-paying union jobs per year across the country while reducing carbon emissions to the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road over the next 10 years.

Public housing costs would also be reduced by $97 million per year, or 30 percent, and energy costs would be slashed by $613 million, or 70 percent. “Climate change represents both a grave threat and a tremendous opportunity,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. “The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act will train and mobilize the workforce to decarbonize the public housing stock and improve the quality of life for all residents. I am proud to begin the hard work of codifying the Green New Deal into law with my friend and colleague, Senator Bernie Sanders.”

The bill creates wrap around services for families by building new childcare and senior centers, expanding access to clean transit, and creating community gardens and other community amenities.

The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act requires that the hundreds of thousands of jobs created by this investment be high-road, family-sustaining jobs by requiring strong labor standards, prevailing wages, and “Buy America” requirements. Public housing residents will lead the decision-making process for these investments and receive jobs training for the newly created jobs from this legislation. The bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and endorsed by more than 50 organizations.

“Living in public housing has always had a bad reputation,” said Lakisha Taylor, co-founder of New York’s Isaac Homes Tenant Coalition. “There are drugs, there is violence, and to some people—first of all—poor people. We are not poor. Growing up in public housing, I had people who watched over me. I had two parents who paid the bills to put food on the table. What I didn’t have was a stable, accountable management authority system that took care of my living environment so I wouldn’t have fear about the building crumbling down or the health of my children,” said Ms. Taylor.

“This bill will change that,” she added. “The Green New Deal is NYCHA’s (New York City Housing Authority) residents hope for a brighter future. It will bring back the power to the tenants, improve our living conditions, develop economic opportunities and create true affordable housing. This is what we are looking for. We need a new future, a new NYCHA that is going to be economically affordable and new buildings for new people.”