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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. and Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., along with affordable housing advocates and climate change activists announce the introduction of public housing legislation as part of the Green New Deal outside the Capitol on Nov. 14, 2019. Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. and Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., along with affordable housing advocates and climate change activists announce the introduction of public housing legislation as part of the Green New Deal outside the Capitol on Nov…

AOC, Bernie Sanders reintroduce Green New Deal for Public Housing Act

The proposal would create record investment as progressives call for more than what Biden’s own housing proposal outlines. 

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) are rolling-out the first of three bills that make up the Green New Deal’s main points: jobs, justice, and de-carbonization. First up is the Green New Deal for Public Housing, introduced Monday, April 19. 

Its purpose is to modernize the public housing system and begin a transition to renewable energy. 

Introduction of the bill comes just after President Joe Biden outlined his own housing proposal in March, in which he called for more than $40 billion to improve public housing infrastructure. Biden’s bill is outlined in broad terms, as in the end, it’s up to legislators to reach a final agreement on specifics for provisions. 

Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan is to create the “most resilient, innovative economy in the world” and would also work to fight climate change by accelerating the shift to alternative energy sources, and close racial gaps. 

It was moderately accepted by Democrats, but progressives worry that his administration risks losing their more ambitious climate goals, like those outlined in the Green New Deal. They’ve taken up this fear to influence Biden’s $2.3 trillion plan.

At an event in New York one day before AOC and Sanders announced their new legislation, a group of lawmakers including Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Rep. Adriano Espaillat pushed for at least $80 billion for housing infrastructure, as opposed to Biden’s proposed $40 billion. 

“Forty million dollars is not enough, that’s a drop in the bucket,” Espaillat said.

Now, Rep. AOC is reintroducing additional parts of the Green New Deal, starting with the first of three to overhaul and address the climate crisis. Sanders is reintroducing the bill in the Senate, and both are in partnership with public housing residents, affordable housing advocates, and climate change activists.

Their joint public housing act would repeal limitations on the construction of public housing and will create grant programs to ensure improvements that will in turn reduce carbon emissions.

To qualify for the grants, recipients must follow strong labor standards, and use of American manufacturing and products. The bill would also fund tenant protection vouchers for displaced residents and create apprenticeship programs for residents.

In a statement, Sanders and AOC say the bill will invest up to $172 billion over 10 years in “sustainable retrofits,” to improve the living conditions for nearly 2 million people living in over 950,000 public housing homes. It will reduce public housing water bills by up to 30% per year, and energy bills by up to 70% by year. 

A lot of the energy savings will come from upgrading electrification and water quality, according to a fact sheet released by the legislators’ offices. It would also repeal the Faircloth Amendment, which restricts the building of new public housing developments.

The bill also creates up to 240,000 union jobs per year across the country while also reinforcing the de-carbonization process — reducing emissions by roughly 5.6 million metric tons. 

In a tweet. Rep. AOC alo emphasized that it will dramatically reduce lead poisoning, unsafe drinking water and air pollution. 

For years, Republicans have barraged and weaponized the Green New Deal against the Democratic Party. Even after Biden’s bill was reintroduced, they criticized that it went beyond the “traditional” definition of what infrastructure really means. 

They further argue that it allocates only a small fraction of money on “real” infrastructure, and to address issues like home care, electric vehicles and even water pipes should not be applicable.

The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act will likely face pushback on a higher scale.

“With millions on the brink of eviction, millions under/unemployed, and with a coming climate crisis -- investing in our housing infrastructure has never been more important,” AOC wrote on Twitter.

A section-by-section overview of the bill can be found here.

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