David Price, December 27, 2018

One of the biggest stories coming out of the 2018 mid-term elections is the emergence of a new campaign for green jobs and infrastructure – the Green New Deal.  Championed by Justice Democrats in Congress, like our new Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and her colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Green New Deal is a bold vision for creating millions of new jobs in the green economy.   More and more elected officials are endorsing it, and polls show a majority of Americans support it.  A well-organized national movement is building even more support, as evidenced by the Sunrise Movement’s education and action campaign.  But folks struggling to pay the rent in communities like Roxbury may wonder how the Green New Deal can help them keep their homes and stop displacement of their neighbors.

Here are five reasons why the Green New Deal has a lot to offer Roxbury.

#1. Affordable housing in transit-oriented areas makes the Green New Deal work.   As a report by The Intercept noted, “Dense affordable housing is the key to making a low-carbon city.”  Roxbury is in fact a model neighborhood for new resources for green development.  Existing and new housing in Roxbury are close to mass transit, reducing the need for auto transit and encouraging more walking, biking and mass transit.

#2. Affordable housing is  much greener than market-rate housing.  Studies show that neighborhoods anchored by affordable housing developments are the most energy efficient.  By contrast, gentrified neighborhoods are wasteful energy users.   In other words, by building the new affordable housing that Roxbury needs to stop displacement, we can also reduce carbon emissions and protect our communities form the devastation which global warming will bring.

#3. Retrofitting existing housing will create jobs for local workers.  A major green strategy is weatherization of existing homes and apartment buildings.  Making these highly energy-efficient will reduce energy use and lower utility bills.  It will take a lot of workers to weatherize the 17,000-plus existing homes in Roxbury.  Who can do that?  Established organizations like YouthBuild Boston are well-suited for this challenge, because they are in the business of training local workers for the construction trades  and have weatherization expertise.  That’s one reason that Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley recommended scaling-up the national YouthBuild organizations, to put large numbers of unemployed local residents to work rebuilding our community.

Increase funding for YouthBuild programs. YouthBuild programs serve disconnected youth across the country, providing the opportunity to further their education while also gaining valuable professional skills and contributing thousands of units of affordable housing to their communities. The largest single source of funding for YouthBuild are grants funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. I would advocate for increasing the amount of grants awarded to YouthBuild programs, in order to scale up this proven approach. Excerpt from Pressley Equity Agenda: Housing

#4. The Green New Deal can improve the health of Roxbury’s most vulnerable residents.  It’s well-known that weatherization reduces water intrusion, eliminating or reducing mold  and pests, which cause asthma and other respiratory illnesses. It’s not so well-known that planting trees can improve Roxbury’s environment and health.   Studies show that Roxbury’s children, seniors and other vulnerable neighbors are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses due in part to a relative scarcity of trees compared to other neighborhoods.   Organizations like YouthBuild Boston could hire local workers to plant trees, expanding our green infrastructure and improving the health of vulnerable residents.  There’s a precedent for this kind of green jobs program:  During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps planted over 220 million trees.

Heat Vulnerability in Boston, Tufts University

#5. The Green New Deal must be equitable.  Roxbury needs an infrastructure program that helps undo the historic institutional racism that created disinvestment in our community.  Green New Deal advocates consistently highlight how the policies of redlining, backed by the federal government beginning the 1930s, prohibited or discouraged home loans and business loans in neighborhoods of color.  As Green New Deal policy advisor Saikat Chakrabarti has said, “Right off the bat, we’ve put trying to fix the injustices that have been perpetrated on black and brown communities front and center. Unless you have targeted investments in communities that have had their wealth stripped from them for generations, it’s going to be very difficult for communities that have faced redlining to enjoy economic prosperity.”

Local workers at a YouthBuild Boston job site. Photo credit: YouthBuild Boston

Landscape architect Zach Mortice has argued that  the Green New Deal should be the “focus of the entire architecture and built environment industry.”   There’s a good argument that it should be the focus of all development in Roxbury.  By employing thousands of local workers to build thousands of dense affordable homes near Dudley Square and the Orange line, by weatherizing thousands of homes and by planting thousands of trees, Roxbury residents could get to work,  fight off gentrification and make Roxbury truly a community of opportunity and equity.

To continue the discussion around equitable development and the Green New Deal, you can follow me @nuestradavid and subscribe to Nuestra’s e-newsletter.

Sources:

Brian Kahn, “New Poll Shows Basically Everyone Likes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal,” Earther 12/27/18 https://t.co/C1krfYyn8k

Sunrise Movement campaign background at https://www.sunrisemovement.org/gnd/

Kate Aronoff, “With a Green New Deal, Here’s What the World Could Look Like for the Next Generation”, The Intercept 12/5/18 http://Bit.ly/2E5B4CM 

Valerie Sizhe Li, “Ayanna Pressley releases housing section of equity agenda for the 7th District,” Sampan 8/9/18   http://bit.ly/2Czr8k1

Leslie Reed, “FDR’s ‘Great Wall of Trees’ continues to provide lessons” Nebraska Today 5/18/17 http://bit.ly/2LB8Rps

Erin Coutts, “Assessing Heat Vulnerability and Cooling Resources: A Case Study of Boston,” Tufts University spring 2015 http://bit.ly/2BJiaiv