Participation in the hearing demonstrates broad support for the Green New Deal housing legislation in DC – People’s World

Signs hang at the Meridian Heights apartment building in northwest Washington on May 18, 2020. While the economic crisis caused by the pandemic highlighted DC’s affordability problem, the housing problem goes well beyond the short-term impact of COVID. | Caroline Brehman/CQ appeal via AP

WASHINGTON – If a new proposal is passed, DC could become one of the first major cities in the United States to adopt a municipal strategy aimed at creating a sustainable supply of affordable housing.

In April 2022, Ward 4 Councilor Janeese Lewis George introduced two historic bills modeled on the Green New Deal in Congress to the DC City Council.

The first bill, the Green New Deal for Housing Act, aims to solve DC’s affordable housing crisis, which was influenced in part by housing attorney and former free election candidate Will Merrifield, who was driven by social Housing construction model is inspired in Europe countries.

The second, the Green New Deal for a Lead-Free DC, will accelerate the removal of lead-water supply lines by removing lead piping in DC owned or leased buildings by 2028 and in private buildings by 2030 (currently only 20% lead) . Service lines are expected to be removed by 2030).

Social housing has been at the heart of Merrifield’s campaign for DC Council in general in 2020. He noted in an email to supporters back in April: “Although we lost at the ballot box, the ideas we put forward are taking root. I will continue in the coming weeks with steps you can take to ensure the bill becomes law and that public housing in Washington, DC becomes a reality.”

The local president of the NAACP DC branch released a press statement supporting the councilor’s proposal, saying:

“Housing justice and environmental justice are civil rights issues. Environmental injustice, housing rights and lead exposure have disproportionately severe health impacts on low-income, black and brown people in the District of Columbia. Not all residents of the district are equally affected. Race, class, income, housing, access to health care, and privilege affect the health effects of environmental toxins. Today, affordable housing, green jobs and reducing lead exposure are critical to fostering healthier communities.”

The bill, if passed, would create a new public housing development bureau to be governed by a council of at least five tenants and a DC council-approved director. This office will be responsible for creating and maintaining social housing in the city. The bill will also create tenant governing bodies, giving tenants the power to fight for their interests in their buildings.

The units it develops must be 2/3 public housing, mixed-income (for 30% median income families and 50% median income families), while 1/3 must be marketable – subsidized affordability. Construction is funded by the Housing Production Trust Fund and the Green Bank of DC.

Excess rents go to improving affordability and creating more public housing rather than making a profit for landlords. This law most closely resembles the social housing concept in Vienna, Austria, where 50-60% of all people live in permanently affordable, rent-stabilised, subsidized housing.

Sunrise Movement DC was present at the original announcement of the historic legislation. “A catastrophic eviction wave is driving workers out of DC,” the group said on its Twitter page. “Underlying all of this is a staggering inequality.” Other groups, including the Sierra Club and Empower DC, also support the housing proposals.

The legislation was co-sponsored by five other council members, including Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Brooke Pinto (Ward 2), Charles Allen (Ward 6), Trayon White (Ward 8) and Robert White (Ward 8). Trayon White and Robert White are both running for DC mayor against incumbent Muriel Bowser, who has not yet signaled support for the bill.

On November 22, the first hearing of the Green New Deal for Housing Amendment Act of 2022 was held with over 150 witnesses from a variety of renters, communities and legal organizations, as well as longtime DC residents who have been directly affected by housing costs and politics over the years .

If passed into law, the proposal would make DC a leader in affordable housing policy alongside other places like Montgomery County, Maryland, which recently approved public housing funding for the construction of new units.

Representatives from organizations such as Sunrise Movement DC, Green New Deal for DC Coalition, DC Statehood Green Party, DC for Democracy, Beloved Community Incubator, DC Jobs With Justice, Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America, the Claudia Jones School for Political Education and a One Plenty of others weighed in at the hearing with support for the bill.

Washington native and Claudia Jones School member Luci Murphy said:

“Separating people from their families, neighbors and support systems is violence. The separation of families in DC shows that our society values ​​property rights more than children’s rights, women’s rights and family rights – which are human rights.”

Other organizers from the Claudia Jones School who spoke were Mark Agard and Dante O’Hara, both of whom noted that DC’s current housing system focuses on maximizing developers’ profits at the expense of the city’s working class.

The hearing lasted 11 hours and heard from longtime district residents who spoke of poor housing conditions (mold, decrepit conditions, rodent infestations, flooding, etc.) in conjunction with discussion of a recent HUD report that revealed how the DC Housing Authority is failing.

The chair of the Housing and Executive Administration Committee, Anita Bonds (At-Large-D), even admitted that her own daughter could not afford to live in the city. Bonds has historically supported politics on the part of the district’s major developers and real estate speculators.

As the year draws to a close, there are doubts whether the proposal will leave committee in time for a full vote in Council, but organizers are optimistic about 2023.

Social housing would be a historic landmark for DC residents, a means to prevent current residents from being displaced and to provide affordable housing for new people moving to the city.


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