Issue Brief: Green New Deal for Public Housing


The American Society of Landscape Architects believes that people should have adequate and affordable housing choices in livable communities. Housing should be sited and designed to optimize natural light, fresh air, and energy efficiency, and foster a sense of belonging. In the past, public housing units have not always included these components that are essential to ensuring the public’s health, safety, and welfare.


Climate change is already one of the largest threats to our environment, our resources, and our everyday life. Extreme weather events are on the rise including increased flooding, stronger and more frequent storms, and longer and hotter summers. The changing climate affects us all but those hardest hit are usually our most vulnerable and disadvantaged. ASLA has long called for a commitment to environmental justice and equality in the shaping the built and natural environments. ASLA believes that all persons have the right to equitable access to environmental and community benefits in order to have a healthy environment in which to live, work, and learn.

At the beginning of 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Senator Ed Markey (MA) introduced Green New Deal (GND) resolutions in their respective chambers. These resolutions were broad frameworks that laid the groundwork for eventual legislation with specific policies. ASLA made a statement applauding the conversations that started with the introduction of these resolutions. The first piece of legislation stemming from the Green New Deal addresses providing energy efficient, livable housing for some of our nation’s most vulnerable people – those living in public housing.

Bill Summary

On November 14, 2019, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) and  introduced the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, S. 2876 and H.R. 5185 respectively. This legislation would help make public housing communities more sustainable and resilient by enacting forward-thinking policies and making grants available to upgrade and rehabilitate these aging facilities.

Community engagement and inclusion are important provisions within this legislation. Member boards and community groups are created to ensure that residents have a voice in the management and rehabilitation of their communities. Workforce development grants would help residents train to be better advocates for themselves while also helping them learn about and pursue new career opportunities.

Grants for deep energy retrofits would help ensure that public housing facilities would lessen their carbon footprints and strive towards a carbon zero future. These retrofits include efficient windows, quality insulation, and upgraded water and climate control infrastructure. Grants would also be made available for renewable energy rooftops where feasible.

Resiliency and sustainability grants would help give public housing facilities a great sense of home and community while also reconnecting them to their surrounding neighborhoods. These grants would help create or enhance senior centers, childcare centers, and community gardens while also providing funding for maintenance of the entire community. Lastly, a provision to add or increase bicycle infrastructure including the creation of bike lanes and bike parking while also allowing funds to be spent on bulk bicycle purchases to help residents afford a bike is included in the measure.

Recent Action

On November 14, 2019, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) introduced the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act.


H.R. 5185, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and cosponsors.  

S. 2876, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), and cosponsors.


Roxanne Blackwell, 
Esq., Hon. ASLA,
Director of Federal
Government Affairs

Elizabeth Hebron,
Director of State
Government Affairs