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Green Reinvestment in NYCHA

With 1 in 15 New Yorkers calling NYCHA home, we cannot delay the crucial changes needed to bring NYCHA into the future. For too long our city’s public housing residents have had to live in unsafe, debilitating conditions. A Green New Deal for NYCHA would restore dignity in public housing while saving nearly half a million units of affordable housing from falling beyond repair; creating hundreds of thousands of jobs; adding billions of dollars to our local economy and bringing resiliency to the forefront of our city.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is home to 400,000 New Yorkers. The system has faced decades of disinvestment and disrepair. Crumbling infrastructure, a backlog of repairs, rampant mold and lead poisoning have resulted in health problems, psychological strain and poor quality of life for NYCHA residents. Compared to the city average, NYCHA apartments have twice the rate of cockroach infestations, heating breakdown, broken toilets, and water leakages making NYCHA residents twice as likely as the average New Yorker to face health challenges. As mayor, Andrew Yang’s top priority will be securing $48 billion in needed funding from the federal government over the next 10-years to make repairs and capital improvements, ensuring that all improvements to the system are aligned with environmental standards.

Now is the time for transformational change. NYCHA tenants should have to wait no longer to live in safe, sustainable and quality public housing developments. But we need to do so much more than the bare minimum. My administration would launch NYCHA into a green revolution, using the once-in-a-generation funding we will get to make sustainability, resiliency and livability the standard in public housing.

A Full Capital Investment in NYCHA

A Yang administration will fight for $48 billion for NYCHA for capital repairs from the federal government. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has struggled through decades of disinvestment. Expected repair costs now total $32 billion over five years and $46 billion over 20 years. A Yang administration would use its deep relationships in Washington, DC, to fight for at least $48 billion in funding to cover NYCHA’s full capital need and set NYCHA back on track while also investing in local solutions to make repairs and improve standards of care for public housing tenants.

Bring a Green New Deal to NYCHA

We know that any chance we have to make significant upgrades to NYCHA’s buildings will be a once-in-a-generation opportunity, so we must capitalize on these investments by ensuring all capital improvements are aligned with our sustainability and climate goals. We will usher in not just upgrades to NYCHA buildings, but also, a new era of racial, economic and environmental justice. New York City recently passed bold legislation, the Climate Mobilization Act, which requires most big buildings to reduce their emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Although NYCHA does not face the same penalties as other landlords if it does not comply with the law, NYCHA can still lead on progressive decarbonization efforts. This includes passive house standards, energy and water efficiency, electrification of fossil-fuel based heating systems and investments in renewable energy and clean jobs.

Here’s the plan:

Abolish NYCHAs carbon pollution by eliminating gas from all NYCHA buildings, reducing energy use, and procuring electricity from 100% renewable sources. A Data for Progress Report indicates that these actions “would cut NYCHA’s annual carbon emissions to zero by 2030 — a 2.3 million ton reduction of carbon per year, which is equivalent to taking 453,243 cars off the road.”

Accelerate deep energy retrofits such as upgrades to windows, the building’s outer cladding and its core energy systems, which would also reduce multiple drivers of mold and pest infestation. This will require appliance upgrades such as heat pumps, new stoves, leak-proof low-flow toilets, and new fridges (though NYCHA has made some progress on turning over toilets and fridges already).

This will have major impacts in terms of cost savings. Smart retrofits will both improve resident quality of life and help NYCHA realize dramatic utility savings overtime that would improve NYCHA’s long term financing.  Other cities, which began retrofitting over a decade ago, such as Toronto, Boston and Paris have realized 20-40% carbon emission reductions that resulted in energy savings in their public housing developments. New York City can do this too. Estimates show that a Green New Deal for NYCHA would save 35-70% of current energy costs, realizing $100 to $398 million a year in savings.

And, retrofit purchases can harness the market power of the public sector, reducing costs for others. As Data for Progress points out, “bulk public purchases of the best new appliance models could drive down costs for everyone in the market as well. Other public agencies or community groups could also piggy-back on these bulk purchases to secure low-cost appliances for their members.” And, there’s precedent for city government using its convening power to lead product development and bolster demand for new technology. For example, in the 1990s NYCHA and the New York Port Authority did just that with a contest to find an efficient refrigerator model, which resulted in Maytag producing the first Energy Star fridge sized for apartment living.

We will commit to putting solar on every NYCHA roof by 2030: NYCHA buildings are a clear candidate because they have flat/exposed roofs with no mechanical equipment because none of the buildings are centrally cooled. Eventually all energy will come from zero-carbon sources like wind and solar.

Provide “Cooling As a Right” to every NYCHA resident — “Heating as a right” is a requirement in all NYC buildings. As the climate warms and we experience more heat waves, every resident should have access to air-conditioning in their home. Last summer, the administration began efforts to reach out to NYCHA tenants under the city’s Get Cool NYC Program, which was slated to deliver 22,000 ACs to NYCHA residents. As of June 2020, 1,900 units were installed in NYCHA buildings. Electric heat pumps, which will be installed to replace natural gas and oil steam boilers will provide both heating and cooling.

Invest in Clean Jobs and Economic Development

A Green New Deal will create up to 325,519 jobs in NYC over ten years, which according to Data for Progress, would result in a citywide economic impact of up to $96 billion in local economic activity over a decade. Priority for installation training and jobs will be given to NYCHA residents for these high-skilled, high-paid, union jobs.

A Yang administration would also invest in job training for NYCHA residents, especially in green jobs. Green City Force has done incredible work to engage young people who live at NYCHA and are out of school and out of work. They provide critical professional development and apprenticeship-style training to rehabilitate developments, with a focus on energy efficiency and access to food. These are exactly the programs we should be connecting young people to after this trying time and are generously funded by private groups and City dollars. A Yang administration will work with philanthropists to expand this funding and bring these resources to as many NYCHA developments as possible.

Rid NYCHA of Mold and Lead

Create a healthy and safe home for every NYCHA resident. Federal and city law requires NYCHA conduct mandatory safety inspections for lead paint and submit documentation to HUD showing compliance with the law. But, in 2017, the Department of Investigations (DOI) released a damning report confirming that NYCHA had been lying for years about its lead paint inspections and actually was falsely certifying its compliance in documents to HUD. This has put thousands of children at great risk.

We continue to witness the irresponsibility and toll this has taken on children, mostly of color, who reside in NYCHA. By completely eliminating the root cause of mold, a Green New Deal for NYCHA would reduce the high rate of asthma among NYCHA residents by 18-30%, allowing residents to see increased health benefits, which will save lives and the city money in healthcare costs.

That is why a Yang administration supports the creation of a mold Ombudsperson. As a result of ongoing litigation, a federal judge has appointed an Ombudsperson to assess NYCHA tenants’ complaints about leak, mold and excess moisture repair orders. Because the Ombudsperson has the power to compel NYCHA to make repairs, it is an effective tool, but the court order expires in 2021. A Yang administration would follow this model by appointing a permanent independent Ombudsperson with legal authority to investigate, bring charges and compel repairs. More than this, residents need to know the Ombudsperson exists. Our administration will dedicate resources to conduct tenant outreach, ensuring that all NYCHA residents utilize this enforcement tool to their advantage.


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