Bringing Energy Efficiency to Public Housing

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Delia Ramirez, and Sen. Bernie Sanders have announced the reintroduction of the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act in partnership with public housing residents, affordable housing advocates, and climate change activists.

The Act aims to retrofit, rehabilitate, expand, and decarbonize the entire nation’s public housing stock through an estimated $162 to $234 billion investment over the next 10 years.

“Years of grassroots organizing on behalf of vulnerable Americans led to the creation of the first federal public housing units, but for decades, the federal government has allowed our limited public housing stock to fall into disrepair. Residents are dealing with mold growth, lead-based paint hazards, lack of central cooling and heating, failing water infrastructure, and numerous other safety concerns. It is beyond time for the federal government to take responsibility and pass legislation that offers comprehensive, public solutions,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. “The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act will allow for an increase in public housing units, create an estimated 280,000 jobs, and invest up to $23 billion a year over 10 years for highly energy-efficient developments. This will produce on-site renewable energy, expand workforce capacity, and focus on community development. Every American deserves to live in a safe, vibrant, and environmentally conscious community—including public housing residents. I am confident this legislation is how we make that a reality.”

Transitioning the nation’s housing stock

The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act would transition the entire public housing stock of the United States, as swiftly and seamlessly as possible, into zero-carbon, highly energy-efficient developments that produce on-site renewable energy, expand workforce capacity and family self-sufficiency programs, and focus on community development.

Specifically, the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act would:

  • Expand federal programs to provide residents with meaningful work investing in their communities, to own and operate resident businesses, to move toward financial independence, and to participate in the management of public housing.
  • Expand resident councils so that public housing residents have a seat at the table for important decisions regarding their homes.
  • Replenish the public housing capital backlog and repeal the Faircloth Amendment, which limits the construction of new public housing developments.

The Act would also repeal the Faircloth Amendment, which limits the construction of new public housing developments.

“In these difficult times, we must move forward boldly to address the systemic and existential crises facing us today, and that includes urgently combating climate change and making sure every American has a safe and decent place to call home,” said Sen. Sanders. “It is unacceptable that, on a single given night in America, over 650,000 people are homeless. It is unacceptable that, in the richest country in the history of the world, people are choosing between paying rent and putting food on the table. It is unacceptable that our nation’s public housing is in a state of chronic disrepair and energy inefficiency after generations of government neglect. It is unacceptable that we have not done more to transform our energy systems, our communities, and our infrastructure away from fossils and toward renewable energy. This legislation is a major step in the right direction, and I am proud to partner with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez in introducing it today.”

Housing as a human right

Under the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, two grant programs would be created under one application process to modernize public housing stock through:

  • Deep energy retrofits to increase energy savings in all 970,000 public housing units;
  • Addressing community workforce development needs by prioritizing good-paying job opportunities for residents;
  • Energy efficiency, building electrification, and water quality upgrades;
  • Community renewable energy generation, the profits of which will be controlled by Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) to boost their coffers and increase self-sufficiency;
  • Recycling;
  • Community resiliency and sustainability;
  • Climate adaptation and emergency disaster response.

“Safe, sustainable, resilient, affordable housing is a human right, plain and simple. The policies we advance in Congress must help us realize that truth for everyone. As our nation reckons with both a worsening housing crisis and urgent climate crisis, we must fight for and realize bold policy action and investment,” said Rep. Ramirez. “I am proud to stand with Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Sanders to introduce legislation that will secure the future of our public housing, prioritize climate and racial justice, and boost our economy and labor force. The Green New Deal for Public Housing is a bold solution to confront unprecedented challenges.”

Click here to read the full text of the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act.

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Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 25-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, most recently serving as Editor-in-Chief for National Mortgage Professional Magazine. He graduated from the New York Institute of Technology, where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books, and has served as Copy Editor for
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