Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) reintroduced on April 19 the “Green New Deal for Public Housing Act,” which would create new HUD grant programs to rehabilitate and upgrade public housing to decrease health hazards and improve energy-efficiency. The bill aims to move public housing toward renewable energy sources and provide economic opportunities and workforce development for residents, including through improvements to HUD’s Section 3 obligation. This bill was first introduced on November 14, 2019 (see Memo, 11/18/2019).
The bill would create seven new grant programs that public housing agencies (PHAs), tribes or tribally designated housing entities, and Native Hawaiian housing entities can apply for under a single application. Some grants focus on workforce development while others address building and unit upgrades such as energy-efficient windows, improved insulation, pipe replacement to improve water quality, and new appliances. Grant programs would also facilitate community energy generation in public housing to make public housing energy self-sufficient and empower residents to vote to determine how to utilize any profits.
The bill would also provide resources for recycling and zero-waste programs as well as for improvements to make buildings more resilient to disasters and climate-related hazards. Another grant program would provide funding to improve and expand communal spaces in public housing, including creating community gardens and building childcare and senior centers, installing high-speed internet, and increasing access to goods and services, such as on-site medical clinics.
The bill adds hiring requirements specific to these Green New Deal programs to HUD’s existing Section 3 obligation, which requires recipients of HUD funds for public housing and other housing and community development construction projects to provide preference for job training, employment, and contracting opportunities for low- and very low-income residents, as well as eligible businesses. The proposal would require that the number of low- and very low-income individuals working in jobs generated from these grant dollars to reach 90% of the total jobs three years after receipt of the funds. The total contract amounts awarded to public housing resident-owned businesses must reach 50% after three years.
The legislative text of the bill appropriates such funds as may be necessary for each fiscal year from 2022 through 2032 and $1 billion to remain available until expended for administrative costs. According to Senator Sander's press statement, “The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act” would invest up to $172 billion over ten years. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
In a Twitter thread announcing the bill, Representative Ocasio-Cortez stated that the bill would:
- Improve living conditions for nearly 2 million people
- Lower utility costs, reducing energy bills up to 70%
- Dramatically reduce lead poisoning, unsafe drinking water, and air pollution
- Create 240,000 new jobs
“On behalf of the National Low Income Housing Coalition,” stated NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel in support of the bill, “I applaud Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for their bold, ambitious proposal to not only help preserve America’s public housing for current and future residents, but to modernize these homes to 21st century green standards, while also helping to ensure that low-income residents benefit from green job and training opportunities. We must build the political will to combat both the affordable housing and climate change crises – both of which severely harm the lowest-income people, people of color, seniors, people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, and others – and I thank Senator Sanders and Representative Ocasio-Cortez for their innovative, holistic vision for green affordable housing in America.”
Read Senator Sanders’ press release at: https://bit.ly/3xfw0ox
Read the summary of the bill at: https://bit.ly/3n9yqk2
Read the legislative text of the bill at: https://bit.ly/3tGxne0
Read the section-by-section overview at: https://bit.ly/3emBFR5
Read organizational statements of support at: https://bit.ly/3naaKvX