Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders relaunch Green New Deal for housing

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reintroduced the Green New Deal for housing Thursday, in a push to bring attention and resources to creating affordable housing and combating climate change. 

The bill would invest up to $234 billion over 10 years to upgrade public housing stock to be more energy efficient and create unionized jobs. It would also include a provision repealing the Faircloth Amendment, which the lawmakers said has limited the construction of new public housing developments. 

“What we have done together is put together a piece of legislation that addresses some of the major crises in America,” Sanders said. 

“We’re gonna stand up and transform our energy system and create sustainable housing — not based on fossil fuel. We all got to provide decent quality affordable housing for millions of Americans. And at the same time, we’re going to create good paying union jobs. That is a win-win-win situation.”

Ocasio-Cortez said the bill is part of a push for a “different world,” where public housing creates a healthier and self-sustaining community. 

The bill was first introduced in 2021 with a suggested $172 billion in funding, but it never passed out of committee in the House or Senate.

Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said there is a shortage of 7.3 million affordable apartments available for the lowest-income renters. This means that for every 10 families in this bracket, there are fewer than four affordable apartments.

Yentel said this is partly due to Congress divesting in public housing, which has resulted in more than $70 billion in unmet capital needs — and 10,000 to 15,000 units of public housing decaying or becoming unusable every year.

Jasmin Sanchez attended the press conference as a New York City Housing Authority organizer and public housing resident. She said the affordability and stability of her unit has been crucial to her and her family.

“The way we preserve our communities and social networks is by having a true investment in public housing so that people don’t have to move,” Sanchez said. “And ensuring that our communities and development become resilient so that in times of crisis, we are prepared.”

The bill faces sure opposition in the Republican-held House and is unlikely to pass in either chamber. But Ocasio-Cortez said the legislation is part of a larger effort to encourage advocacy by Americans and accountability for lawmakers. 

“One of the reasons public housing has been so de-capitalized for so long is because of Republicans controlled houses, or in the Senate, in one way or another,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And that’s why it’s important that Democrats center public housing and not make it the negotiable thing and the dismissed thing that it has been before.”

Ocasio-Cortez said she hopes more Republicans will take into account the many Americans who are struggling with housing. 

“My message to them is that money doesn’t vote, that billionaires are just a handful of votes,” Ocasio-Cortez said. 

“We are accountable to all of the American people, and all of the American people, virtually — the vast majority — our backs are breaking under the cost of housing and the quality of housing. So it’s time to come back to Earth and it’s time to legislate for the country.”

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