November 14, 2019 / 11:57 PM / a month ago

U.S. lawmakers propose $180 billion plan to make public housing green

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Liberal lawmakers on Thursday proposed a nationwide $180 billion climate change proposal to make public housing environmentally clean, saying the homes of two million low-income Americans could be deployed to fight global warming.

The Green New Deal for Public Housing aims to eliminate planet-warming carbon emissions from the nation’s roughly one million units of public housing over the span of a decade.

The ambitious plan is based on the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution introduced early this year calling for a 10-year, government-driven effort to promote clean energy and make the nation carbon-neutral by 2030.

President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have criticized the plan as socialist, radical and expensive.

The plan has also met resistance from moderate Democrats in Congress who have unveiled a climate change plan to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 instead of 2030.

The public housing plan would upgrade and retrofit units with solar panels and renewable energy sources, said sponsors Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential hopeful, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a first-term lawmaker who has gained a national spotlight for championing progressive views.

Sanders said the investment of up to $180 billion to make public housing energy efficient would reduce public housing costs by $97 million per year, or 30%, cut annual energy costs by $613 million or 70% and create 250,000 jobs.

“We’re going to save public housing authorities money and this will pay for itself,” he said at a Washington, D.C. news conference unveiling the bill.

Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Washington-based group that promotes affordable housing policies, said in support of the plan “We must build the political will to combat both the affordable housing and the climate crises.”

Overall residential and commercial buildings account for about 12% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We’re thrilled and will be fighting to pass such legislation,” said Pete Sikora, a campaign director for the nonprofit New York Communities for Change, a climate justice group, in an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The proposal “matches the desperate need for housing, jobs and slashing climate pollution,” he said.

Earlier this year New York City adopted a measure mandating that its high rises and other large buildings cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

The Trump administration recently began formal steps to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement, a global pact to cut greenhouse emissions.

Several senators who have opposed the Green New Deal did not respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Chris Michaud Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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