Energy & Environment

Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders unveil $180B Green New Deal public housing plan

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday unveiled the next step to their Green New Deal plan with a bill focused entirely on reimagining public housing.

The bill from the two progressive firebrands places a sharp focus on decarbonizing the nation's public housing units.

The proposal calls for an investment of $180 billion over 10 years to sustainably retrofit and repair public housing with the goal of eliminating all carbon emissions. The housing units would meet the zero-emissions goal through the use of solar panels and renewable energy sources.

The lawmakers say the legislation would not only cut the carbon footprint of the country's fleet of housing units but enrich the lives of their inhabitants.

"This bill shows that we can address our climate and affordable housing crises by making public housing a model of efficiency, sustainability and resiliency," Sanders, who is one of the top-tier hopefuls running in the 2020 Democratic primary, said in a statement Thursday.

"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."

Ocasio-Cortez said the bill offered the promise of a climate change opportunity.

"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," she said in a statement.

The two lawmakers are expected to formally unveil the legislation Thursday afternoon surrounded by public housing residents, affordable housing advocates and climate activists. The bill is also endorsed by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), who is running against Sanders in the Democratic primary.

Energy consumption in residential and commercial buildings make up nearly 40 percent of all energy use in the U.S. Shrinking the footprint of buildings has been a big area of focus for those seeking to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. 

In April, New York City passed a sweeping climate plan likened to the Green New Deal that would require New York's largest residential and commercial buildings to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2040 and 80 percent by 2050. In comparison, the Green New Deal resolution introduced in Congress at the beginning of this year aims to get the U.S. electric grid running on 100 percent green energy by 2030.

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