Press Release

Sen. Welch Joins Sen. Sanders, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez in Reintroducing Green New Deal for Public Housing Act 

Mar 21, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.-14) reintroduced the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.), that would take on the affordable housing crisis and the existential threat of climate change. The bill invests up to $234 billion over ten years to transition public housing stock in the United States to zero-carbon, highly energy-efficient homes – dramatically improving living conditions for people in public housing across the country. The legislation also creates up to 280,000 good-paying, union jobs per year, while reducing annual carbon emissions by roughly 5.7 million metric tons – the equivalent of taking over 1.26 million cars off the road. 

On Thursday, Senator Welch joined Sens. Sanders, Markey, and Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.-03), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.-16) and community organizers and leaders at a press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the reintroduction of the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act. Watch a livestream of the press conference, and view photos from the event below.

“In these difficult times, we must move forward boldly to address the systemic and existential crises facing us today and that includes urgently combating climate change and making sure every American has a safe and decent place to call home,” said Senator Sanders. “It is unacceptable that, on a single given night in America, over 650,000 people are homeless. It is unacceptable that, in the richest country in the history of the world, people are choosing between paying rent and putting food on the table. It is unacceptable that our nation’s public housing is in a state of chronic disrepair and energy inefficiency after generations of government neglect. It is unacceptable that we have not done more to transform our energy systems, our communities, and our infrastructure away from fossils fuels and toward renewable energy. This legislation is a major step in the right direction, and I am proud to partner with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez in introducing it today.” 

“Years of grassroots organizing on behalf of vulnerable Americans led to the creation of the first federal public housing units but for decades the federal government has allowed our limited public housing stock to fall into disrepair. Residents are dealing with mold growth, lead-based paint hazards, lack of central cooling and heating, failing water infrastructure, and numerous other safety concerns. It is beyond time for the federal government to take responsibility and pass legislation that offers comprehensive, public solutions,” said Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. “The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act will allow for an increase in public housing units, create an estimated 280,000 jobs, and invest up to $23 billion a year over ten years for highly energy-efficient developments. This will produce on-site renewable energy, expand workforce capacity, and focus on community development. Every American deserves to live in a safe, vibrant, and environmentally conscious community – including public housing residents. I am confident this legislation is how we make that a reality.” 

“The climate and affordable housing crises are the two most pressing challenges of our time. Vermont has been hit particularly hard by both–we have the second-highest homelessness rate in the country, and last summer’s brutal floods left communities devastated. Vermonters urgently need solutions that provide them with a roof over their heads and the resources necessary to be more resilient. This bill tackles both challenges head-on by modernizing public housing with clean, efficient and renewable energy features that strengthen communities’ climate resilience, and upgrading public housing so that everyone has a clean and safe place to call home,” said Senator Welch

Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and Welch are joined on the legislation by 55 members in the House of Representatives and 6 Senators, including Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). 

Today, the U.S. faces a deepening climate and housing crisis, and public housing is burdened by government neglect, racial injustice, and chronic disrepair, including a $70 billion maintenance backlog. Residents of public housing often suffer worse health outcomes due to mold infestations, lead contamination, poor indoor air quality, and unsafe temperatures. Low-income households on average spend 8.6% of their total income on energy costs compared to 3% for other households – often forcing the choice between paying energy bills or other essential expenses like food, medicine, and child care. 

Additionally, about 11.3 million American households are severely cost-burdened from paying more than 50% of their income on housing. Alarmingly, there are currently no states in the country where a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage can afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. 

With its focus on transforming over 900,000 units of public housing, the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act would take on the housing and climate crises in a number of ways including by: 

  • Repealing the Faircloth Amendment, which limits the construction of new public housing developments, an important step toward providing affordable housing for all. 
  • Helping to bring up public housing to safe, sanitary, and sustainable conditions. 
  • Providing funding to electrify public housing, and secure renewable energy sources for energy needs. 
  • Supporting families and sustainable communities by building new child care and senior centers, expanding access to clean transportation, and creating community gardens and other community investments. 
  • Expanding federal programs to provide residents with meaningful work investing in their own communities and facilitate resident-owned and operated businesses. 
  • Expanding resident councils so that public housing residents have a seat at the table for important decisions regarding their homes. 

“In the five years since its introduction, Green New Deal advocacy has catapulted environmental justice to the top of the national agenda, helped deliver historic victories, and charted a course for a better future,” said Senator Markey. “The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act sets forward a plan to make housing safer, more sustainable, and more affordable, while creating good, green jobs along the way. By improving the living conditions for people living in public housing and making more public housing available to those who need it, we can tackle the housing crisis and the climate crisis at the same time.” 

“Everyone deserves a safe, decent place to call home, and bold federal investments in public housing can be a win-win for our communities and environment,” said Senator Merkley. “The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act tackles the dual crises of climate chaos and housing unaffordability by upgrading millions of federal public housing units. With this landmark investment in our future, we can create good-paying jobs, improve public health, and reduce carbon pollution.” 

“We are in the middle of a housing crisis and a climate crisis, and we need bold federal investments to tackle both. I’m proud to cosponsor the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, which will transition nearly a million public housing units into zero-carbon, energy efficient housing. This legislation will strengthen our nation’s public housing communities, create good-paying green jobs, lower energy and water costs, and take a big whack at cutting our carbon emissions,” said Senator Warren

“Our public housing infrastructure was not built to handle the increasingly extreme heat and weather conditions our communities are confronting in the face of climate change,” said Senator Padilla. “This bill will help combat our housing crisis by expanding access to affordable public housing while prioritizing energy-efficient and climate-resilient development.” 

“This legislation is a critical step towards addressing both our climate crisis and the urgent need for affordable housing,” said Senator Booker. “The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act not only creates quality, sustainable homes but also generates thousands of jobs in low-income communities across the nation. Investing in zero-carbon public housing will serve as a blueprint for how our country can both combat climate change and make meaningful investments in communities most in need.”   

“This measure aims to ensure every American has an affordable and safe place to live. As climate change exacerbates problems of homelessness and hardworking Americans struggle to afford a place to live, we must tackle these issues strategically and holistically,” said Senator Blumenthal. “By investing in housing and energy-efficient improvements, this bill will help provide homes for millions of people and create union jobs.” 

The legislation is endorsed by more than 70 organizations including American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), National Housing Law Project, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Center for Popular Democracy Action, National Homelessness Law Center, Movement For Black Lives, Alliance for Housing Justice, People’s Action/Homes Guarantee Campaign, MoveOn, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Care in Action, United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 9A, Green New Deal Network, Sunrise Movement, Public Citizen, NextGen America, Make The Road New York, and Care In Action. 

Learn more about the bill. 

Read the full text of the bill. 

Read a section-by-section summary of the bill.