Councilmember introduces Green New Deal legislation for DC
Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George introduced two pieces of legislation modeled after the Green New Deal Tuesday.
The bills, the Green New Deal for Housing Act and the Green New Deal for a Lead-Free DC, seek to establish District-owned mixed-income affordable housing, known as social housing, and accelerate the removal of lead service lines on public and private property.
“The Green New Deal for housing will change the game and raise the bar for what affordable, sustainable housing looks like in the District of Columbia,” Lewis George told the crowd on the steps of the Wilson Building.
Lewis George was joined by a team of activist groups including the Sunrise Movement, Sierra Club, Empower DC, the local chapter of the NAACP and the labor union LiUNA to announce the bills.
“Being a climate organizer, it’s easy to fall into a pit of despair, to think that the work we’re doing isn’t effective,” said Wei, a 15 year old organizer with Sunrise. “But this bill shows that we are doing good work, that our voices are being listened to, and that the future is possible.”
The bills tackle two very different but related issues as it relates to environmental justice.
The Green New Deal for Housing Act calls for the establishment of mixed-income affordable housing. Under this arrangement, a third of units constructed in these developments must be reserved as “deeply affordable,” (below 30% AMI), a third will be 30-50% AMI and another third will be market rate. AMI refers to area median income, which is the household median or “middle” income in the region. Social housing developments use the funds paid by market rate tenants to subsidize the cost for their fellow neighbors. The property will also have net-zero emissions.
If passed, funding for this program is planned to come from various streams including the Housing Production Trust Fund and DC Green Bank. The legislation calls for the establishment of a new agency called the Office of Social Housing Developments, which would be responsible for the creation and maintenance of social housing in the District. Additionally, tenant leadership boards would also be established, where residents can hold building management accountable.
Accelerating lead service line removal
The Green New Deal for a Lead-Free DC outlines a work training program to remove lead service lines in addition to speeding up the removal process. As of now, D.C. Water is projected to only remove 20% of lead service lines by 2030.
Lead pipes have been a concern for decades in the District. In 2004, Washington residents experienced one of the most severe water contamination crises in the nation, The Washington Post reported. The lead levels in thousands of homes were higher than levels during the subsequent crisis in Flint, Michigan.
“Lead line replacement is not a nice thing to do, or a ‘someday we will get around to it.’ Lead removal is an urgent public health imperative,” Lewis George told the crowd.
This introduction comes days after Mayoral candidate Robert White announced a new platform for his mayoral campaign — to give every District resident a job. Lewis George said she would rely on a unionized workforce for the legislation, which complements White’s plan.
Lewis George’s team joined social housing advocate and former at-large candidate Will Merrifield to craft the legislation.
“Social housing is the wave of the future,” Merrifield said. “It’s the way to beat back against this land speculation and create housing for the collective.”
The legislation was co-introduced with five other councilmembers: Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White and At-Large Councilmember Robert White.
“Climate change is not something in the future. It is now. Our planet is dying,” Lewis George said.