Green Public Housing Act
November 14, 2019 12:18 PM   Subscribe

“Through a 10-year mobilization of up to $172 billion, the bill would decarbonize and upgrade more than 1 million units of public housing. (To put that in perspective, if those homes formed a single city, it would be the country’s fourth largest—more populous than Houston, slightly smaller than Chicago.) The legislation gives a glimpse of how a Green New Deal could improve lives, attack inequality, and slash emissions. We would know because our think tank, Data for Progress, researched the damn bill.” Green New Deal for Public Housing (The Nation) “ For more details on where new jobs would be created nationally, view our data tables. For more details on where jobs would be created in New York City specifically, see the NYCHA report.” (Data For Progress)
posted by The Whelk (38 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
A+
posted by windbox at 1:14 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


Pitching this as green is interesting, at $119-172,000 per unit, the bulk of the spend must be going to the upgrade not the decarbonisation element.

I'd be interested to hear more about the local economic affects of using less energy and keeping the cash saved in the local economy to a greater extent. That has been a popular selling point here.
posted by biffa at 1:40 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


It looks like this is removing CO2 at a cost of, what, $30,000/ton? For comparison, adding renewable energy like wind farms costs more like $25 / ton.

This proposal is really gross greenwashing, and deeply unserious in terms of actually addressing the climate crisis. If people want to make an argument for massive investment into upgrading public housing, that's a discussion that can be had on its own terms - but let's not pretend it's fundamentally or significantly a climate initiative.
posted by kickingtheground at 2:09 PM on November 14 [8 favorites]


"These green retrofits would cut 5.6 million tons of annual carbon emissions." With a social cost of carbon of around $50, that's about a $250 million annual benefit, or a return (from decarbonization only) of about 0.1 percent. (kickingtheground beat me to it, but I'll leave this as another way to look at the numbers.) Doesn't mean it's a bad idea: Better living conditions are valuable. But it's an inefficient way to decarbonize.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:12 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


it’s a way to decrease carbon footprint and also improve the lives of the poor and disadvantaged but it’s not the most cost-efficient way to reduce carbon footprint so fuck that (and the disadvantaged, continually).
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:25 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


greenwashing

It's also cheaper to manufacture new plastic bottles than to recycle them but... that's not the point.

I don't really have a great handle on all the arguments but:

a) You can't live in a wind farm. Improving the quality of housing and creating jobs is a worthwhile humanitarian goal.

b) Increasing efficiency and increasing generating capacity is not an either-or proposition. All power generation consumes space and resources, which changes (colloquially: "destroys") ecosystems. My province is dependent on hydro power. Every single project entails a huge political fight and huge financial and environmental costs. Cleanliness is a value judgement that only makes sense when the terms are sufficiently narrowed: Dams destroy thousands of hectares of arable and ecologically critical land, pollute the water and change downstream hydrology. In some cases they are tantamount to genocide. But they're "clean."

Our generating capacity is going to have to increase by 55% just to accommodate the de-carbonization of transportation. Ignoring efficiencies in buildings because it's theoretically cheaper to build more dams (or wind farms or nuke plants) is frankly stupid.

c) The most "efficient" economy is one where nobody has a job. A main objective of the GND (as with the original ND) is to put people to work. That entails the redistribution of money, which is why the expense -- assuming the money is used to pay workers, rather than enrich their employers -- is a feature, not a bug.

d) Climate change isn't an environmental problem, it's a humanitarian problem related to all other human problems -- racism, inequality, capitalism, etc. Unfortunately climate purists now have an excuse to denigrate solutions to other social ills as misdirected or wasteful. I don't buy it, I think the only way to attack the one problem is to attack them all at the same time.
posted by klanawa at 2:40 PM on November 14 [19 favorites]


The fastest way to decarbonize the US is to simply put a tax on carbon, especially that which is burned for commercial purposes and stop literally subsidizing the cost of drilling for oil and bringing it to market. At this point, the cost of producing a barrel of oil made from various wastes is consistently less than the price of a barrel of oil.

Sadly, it is still far more profitable to dig it up, especially with the tax incentives, many of which are hidden with intentionally deceptive titles. The only thing standing in the way is inertia and greed.

Other measures are certainly necessary, and eliminating the GHG problem with burning oil doesn't do jack shit for all the other ways burning hydrocarbons is killing us, both directly and indirectly, but it would make a huge difference toward decreasing the amount of warming we ultimately experience.

It is a literal crime against future generations that we failed to transition to synthetically produced oil a decade ago. Every day we ignore the practical solution staring us right in the face compounds the damage further. Not adds to the damage, but compounds it in the way compound interest means you pay four times the interest by doubling the length of your mortgage.

Yes, replacing every drop tomorrow would be impossible. There are, after all, limited feedstocks, and building production capacity takes time. That does not excuse our failure to replace every drop that we can. That it can be done without raising the cost of a barrel of oil at all makes it inexcusable.
posted by wierdo at 2:44 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


No matter how you try and sell it, the corporate class is gonna fight you, on the green new deal, on taxes, on help for the homeless, and any other goddamned thing you care to mention that NEEDS to be done yesterday. You can call it greenwashing, or what have you, but there is no way to sell it that they'll accept, because at the end of the day they know we're saying you gotta pay. And they do. And we gotta tell them. Or we can lay down and die, and apologize for getting in their fucking way. Frankly, I'm over apologizing to thieves and liars for breathing their air without a damned permit.
posted by evilDoug at 3:09 PM on November 14 [8 favorites]


Sorry about the only tangentially related rant. On the subject, I don't really care what we call it if we build/acquire more public housing and bring existing stocks to a more reasonable level of quality and energy efficiency. If it bugs you that much, choose to interpret "green" as referring to the efficiency standards and retrofit part and stop nitpicking otherwise perfectly good things. It creates division where none need exist.
posted by wierdo at 3:11 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


wow yeah, this is such gross greenwashing. this is so disgusting. i mean let me get this straight, we're updating public housing living conditions? and a big part of that will happen to include retrofitting and decarbonizing them? and creating jobs in the process of doing so? and therefore they're going to call the plan "green"?

i'm disgusted. this plan to improve public housing is literally exactly the same as other greenwashing initiatives like "clean coal", or when poland spring made "eco-friendly" shaped plastic bottles that continued to make the world worse. greenwashing to the highest degree. we shouldn't pursue any of this awful gross greenwashed plan. shame on you AOC, shame on you senator bernard sanders sir you have not checked your math like i have and we the critically thinking people demand you drop out already
posted by windbox at 3:21 PM on November 14 [14 favorites]


I suspect the nuance here is that the value in this plan is upgrading public housing in a way that happens to also be eco friendly, rather than saving the environment in a way that happens to upgrade housing.

It's 100% worth doing and prioritizing. It's not going to significantly fix the environment, but it's a lot better than every other alternative, and every little bit would be beneficial.

What would really help us decarbonize would be acceptance of nuclear reactors, ideally thorium ones, to power both residential and industrial areas. I'm not sure we'll take advantage of that in time though.
posted by cidthesquid at 3:44 PM on November 14 [5 favorites]


Also, if we improve the density of housing, and combine that with improved public transit and reduced space for cars, that is also a huge green benefit with knock-on effects we probably cannot fully account for.
posted by cidthesquid at 3:46 PM on November 14 [5 favorites]


aside from the above points, i would guess that at least some of the upgrades would extend the life of the housing units, and that in itself would reduce carbon emissions by reducing/delaying new construction, yes?
posted by Clowder of bats at 4:46 PM on November 14 [4 favorites]


GND would engage in some lead remediation, which is badly needed. An increase in public spending would be great, too. More jobs, great!

From a climate or housing perspective, it's lacking. It has a minimal impact on ghg emissions and does nothing to increase density (it builds no new units). It won't go anywhere legislatively, so it's more a rallying cry ("attic insulation for the people!") or a sense of what the priorities would be in a Sanders administration.
posted by factory123 at 5:19 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


I really don't understand where the "well akwsually" crowd is coming from. This isn't the entirety of the green new deal. Most of the things people talk about in this thread are part of the GND. Renovating public housing is good because it improves people's lives. Making dwellings more energy efficient is good. Creating jobs is good. Selling policies based on smart politics is good and obvious. What the hell.
posted by eagles123 at 6:20 PM on November 14 [7 favorites]


It’s because of the messenger.
posted by odinsdream at 6:21 PM on November 14 [9 favorites]


wow yeah, this is such gross greenwashing. this is so disgusting. i mean let me get this straight, we're updating public housing living conditions? and a big part of that will happen to include retrofitting and decarbonizing them? and creating jobs in the process of doing so? and therefore they're going to call the plan "green"?

You had me in the first half, not gonna lie.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:05 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


If you don't strengthen public housing you push folks out to the suburbs and increase miles driven. There doesn't need to be anything 'green' about building or restoring housing in cities for it to be beneficial for the environment.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:51 PM on November 14 [9 favorites]


If you don't strengthen public housing you push folks out to the suburbs and increase miles driven. There doesn't need to be anything 'green' about building or restoring housing in cities for it to be beneficial for the environment.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:51 PM on November 15 [3 favorites +] [!]


One thing any discussion of climate change and housing also has to take into account is the question of climate refugees. They exist, more of them will exist in the future, and public housing is where they're likeliest to live, because the private economy sure ain't gonna make a profit off the glut of people moving to desirable areas ahead of factories, jobs, and other infrastructure, which we know won't keep up.

...Materials reclamation and environmental cleanup in areas we abandon will also be A Thing, and people doing that work will need housing the market surely won't provide.

I don't see consideration of either detail here. I'm reading this thing and basically thinking "ok boomer".
posted by saysthis at 9:23 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


What would really help us decarbonize would be acceptance of nuclear reactors

On the one hand, nuclear power is frighteningly efficient compared to every other energy source we have.

On the other, using it without disaster requires (1) a huge swarm of safeguards security protocols that must be followed exactly and (2) a way to dispose of highly toxic waste that will be dangerous for decades to centuries.

Those two features require well-enforced regulation to get past the corporate (and often municipal) desire to avoid spending money on tedious bureaucracy and expensive tests and confirmations. I don't want to notably increase nuclear power sources until (sigh) we can trust our government not to handwave past any safety violations, because otherwise, I know whose communities are going to wind up as the home of toxic waste dumps.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:36 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


Nuclear power plants take so much time and energy in the form of oil to construct that advocating for it now is basic climate change denial.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:40 PM on November 14


Literally the IPCC RCP 2.6 pathway requires more nuclear power plants. That’s not debatable.
posted by odinsdream at 9:56 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


I don't see consideration of either detail here. I'm reading this thing and basically thinking "ok boomer".

Ya dude totally AOC and Bernie Sanders is the epitome of boomer shit, you definitely clearly get that meme and you're using it correctly here and you don't sound like a boomer at all

The nail on the ok boomer coffin will be when Sean Hannity tries to ok boomer Liz Warren in...eh I give it 2 weeks
posted by windbox at 10:17 PM on November 14 [4 favorites]


I'm against this because it doesn't involve funding for warp drive or take into account the potential heat death of the universe.
posted by eagles123 at 10:41 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


The nail on the ok boomer coffin will be when Sean Hannity tries to ok boomer Liz Warren in...eh I give it 2 weeks
posted by windbox at 2:17 PM on November 15 [+] [!]


Fair critique...boomer.
posted by saysthis at 11:05 PM on November 14


Literally the IPCC RCP 2.6 pathway requires more nuclear power plants. That’s not debatable.

The figures for energy related to any of the RCPs represent a scenario. Scenarios don't say how the future has to be, they are just tools to help planning. They aren't somehow binding. If a tech doesn't stand up then other techs which do can displace them. The RCP 2.6 scenario for energy also had a lot of coal, assumed to be allowed via CCS but since that is barely used so far that might also not deliver.

Assumptions will have been made in the model for each tech, for example about deployment and falling costs, and if they don't come about then reality diverges from the model and we get a different set of technologies in the outcomes. We are talking about a model that is global and looking forward 86 years. In reality its hard to come up with a meaningful model that gets to ten years for the energy sector.
posted by biffa at 12:42 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


It looks like this is removing CO2 at a cost of, what, $30,000/ton? For comparison, adding renewable energy like wind farms costs more like $25 / ton.

Not quite since the capex is a one-off and the savings is annual. Well built housing stock lasts for decades so the payback is actually much better.

Over a 50 year period it's more like $600 a ton.

I imagine the carbon saved per $ would be better if we used the money to build new public housing to add to the additional housing stock since it is cheaper to build it efficiently than to refit, but existing housing stock is often in a desperate state so we need that maintenance spend anyway.
posted by atrazine at 6:25 AM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Really it’s more , ok Reagan Democrats.


The simple fact of reinvesting in public housing as a popular idea marks a break with the politics of the last 40 years which was centered on ignoring, privatizing, and starving existing public infrastructure. It’s wild we have to reintroduce public spending as a radical idea but thats how bad it’s gotten. Again, thanks Reagan Democrats.
posted by The Whelk at 6:46 AM on November 15 [4 favorites]


RCP 2.6 requires coal to supply hydrogen for the fleet of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Yes, it’s a scenario not a prescription, but it’s currently the only scientific scenario available that outlines a realistic method of limiting the absolute worst of climate crisis outcomes. We all need to read it and understand how it operates, and be pushing for its goals.
posted by odinsdream at 7:32 AM on November 15


I think its important to remember that it is called the Green New Deal and not the New Green Deal. The ideas are mostly 1930s New Deal economics with a bit of greenness covering it. But the most important part of it is New Deal economics and it should be evaluated with that in mind first.
posted by JackFlash at 8:01 AM on November 15 [5 favorites]


The fact that is coal for hydrogen rather than electricity for direct use in EVs only reinforces the potential for disparity between routes to achieving the carbon reduction needed for RCP2.6. You seem to think that I am against working towards the long term goals of achieving RCP 2.6. I'm not. I'm saying that just because the scenario as published includes nuclear doesn't mean the only way to get to the desired endpoint of the scenario is to have nuclear. I am arguing with your point about nuclear being not debatable. Its important that we don't stay attached to technology that isn't delivering and the experience with the new nuclear fleet in Europe has been underwhelming in terms of timely delivery, overall cost and lack of learning benefits. Meanwhile PV continues to outperform the predictions from bodies like the IEA.

Its also worth noting that the model that led to the technology predictions in the RCP 2.6 scenario may well have been influenced by organisations and governments that favour particular solutions, stimulated by national interests.
posted by biffa at 8:13 AM on November 15


All i'm saying is that RCP 2.6 is the ONLY KNOWN SCIENTIFIC SCENARIO that we have, if you have another one then provide it. If you just don't like certain parts of it personally, that's not a point against it. It's all a big balance, and RCP 2.6 uses hydrogen fuel cell vehicles because it's literally impossible to run a fleet of electric vehicles at anywhere near the capacities we require to combat the crisis.
posted by odinsdream at 8:26 AM on November 15




Let’s just accept the estimate that this proposal is the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road. That’s 0.4 percent of all cars in the US. Transport accounts for 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, so this represents a total reduction of about 0.12 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words, this housing proposal, the very first GND proposal to hit the public stage, is just noise. If we approved it, we’d be spending $172 billion on something we literally couldn’t even measure.
Kevin Drum in Mother Jones.

odinsdream's comment about the messenger is pertinent here. If Joe Biden announced a major green initiative that consisted of putting weatherstripping on public housing, all the "ok boomers" would be flowing in the other direction.
posted by factory123 at 9:47 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


Drum:
Since I’ve already admitted that nothing is going to pass in the near future anyway, why am I making such a stink about this? I’m not sure. Part of the reason is that I’ve become more and more obsessed with climate change over the past few years, and I’m desperate for progressives to start taking it truly seriously.
The answer is in the question. When a thing is both necessary and "impossible" it becomes an eternal holy war. Drum gets to find everyone wanting in courage and purity and to reject all half measures and compromises. He never has to get his hands dirty. He can shout pieties right up until he's consumed by the fire.

I suspect that Drum will find every plan an outrage and will continue to drive his SUV* to Starbucks each morning.

* of course I have no idea what or whether this guy drives.
posted by klanawa at 11:07 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


Does anyone familiar with Drum know what kinds of measures he supports? They're not in that article.
posted by Selena777 at 4:50 PM on November 15


ll i'm saying is that RCP 2.6 is the ONLY KNOWN SCIENTIFIC SCENARIO that we have

Yes it's a scenario. Shouting 'science' doesn't make it any more accurate or even scientific. Its based on the RCP 2.6 scenario, but then its actually a socio-technical model to derive an energy mix which would allow the planet to make the RCP 2.6 carbon limits.

It ends in one place based on the inputs and assumptions of a bunch of people who fed into the model. The structure of the model and the assumptions have a massive impact on what comes out. For IPCC the inputs will be based on all sorts of factors influenced by th

As I already mentioned that doesn't make it some model of how the future is going to go. Scenarios are not intended as predictions of the future. They are tools to support planning. Reaching the actual level of carbon/temp increase associated with RCP2.6 does not require that any specific technology is adopted. It is entirely possible to reach the desired RCP 2.6 endpoint without nuclear, or with nuclear and without CC, maybe even with nuclear and CCS and without renewables. If nuclear and CCs and energy efficiency outperform renewables then it might make sense to switch to them with a heavier focus. Because the scenario is just setting out a possible route forward not the actual route.

Why am I harping on this? Because its important that we don't let the specific energy mix emerging from the RCP 2.6 model to act as a straitjacket limiting us to the predicted options.
posted by biffa at 3:27 AM on November 17 [3 favorites]


Ilhan Omar Pitches $1 Trillion For Green Public Housing : The bill, part of a wave of progressive legislation, would undo Clinton-era restrictions on public housing in a bid to tackle the climate and housing crises at once.
posted by The Whelk at 8:37 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]


« Older the sheer quantity of mummified ibises   |   Dorktown Goes For Two Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments