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Introducing Green New Deal Legislation to Create Social Housing and Remove Lead Pipes in DC

Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George and five other Councilmembers introduced the Green New Deal for Housing Act to revolutionize how the District produces and preserves affordable housing by creating sustainable, climate-neutral social housing. Social housing is publicly-owned, mixed-income housing that generates deeper affordability by reinvesting rent payments in lowering costs for tenants and establishing more social housing across the city.

“Social housing is the critical missing piece in confronting our severe affordable housing crisis,” said Councilmember Lewis George. “By putting the profits and the power in the hands of people, we can generate more of the affordable housing that is so desperately needed in DC, while also aligning our housing policies with the urgent need to mitigate climate change.”

Councilmember Lewis George also announced the introduction of the Green New Deal for a Lead-Free DC to accelerate the removal of hazardous lead water service lines on public and private land in DC, while also expanding the District’s lead remediation specialist workforce with a new job training program through the DC Infrastructure Academy.

“We know that both the serious health risks of exposure to lead and the burden of removing lead pipes falls hardest on Black and Brown residents in DC,” said Councilmember Lewis George. “Streamlining lead service line removal is a racial justice issue and can simultaneously deliver good green jobs that inject opportunity in our communities.”

The Green New Deal for Housing Amendment Act of 2022

  • Establishes a new agency, the Office of Social Housing Developments, responsible for the construction, maintenance, and growth of District-owned, mixed-income affordable housing. Social Housing developments use the money paid from market-rate rent-paying tenants to cross-subsidize deeply affordable units, leading to lower overall costs and more affordable housing production. Because social housing developments are publicly owned, the District retains the asset and can set rent rates lower than private developers who have a profit motive. 
  • The social housing model is most closely associated with Vienna, Austria but locally the Montgomery County, MD Housing Opportunities Commission has also established a special revolving fund for this purpose, and state-level bills have been introduced in Maryland and California
  • Strong environmental and fair labor standards are at the center of social housing. Developments will be built to net-zero emissions standards and feature sustainable design and technology throughout each property, including all electric heating and minimal off-street parking. Properties will utilize on-site solar power to the maximum extent practicable, and where necessary, retro-fit older properties to include high-efficiency equipment. Social housing developments will adhere to all construction and operating labor standards. 
  • Affordability levels in social housing developments will align with the following mixed income scale (to the extent practicable): 1/3 extremely low-income (<30% AMI), 1/3 very-low (30-50% AMI), and 1/3 at market rates necessary to achieve full rent cross-subsidization at each property. Where possible, social housing developments will also include ground-floor commercial developments suitable for child care centers, grocery stores, and small locally owned businesses.
  • Funding for social housing developments would come from several sources: First, the bill amends the Housing Production Trust Fund Act to make such projects eligible for HPTF seed funding. The Office would then be able to issue bonds on this funding, creating a sustainable and low-cost alternative to the current HPTF model. Further, the Office would also be eligible to receive support from federal affordable and green housing programs, as well as the DC Green Bank because of its sustainable and climate-friendly features. Last, the bill creates a special purpose revenue fund (SPRF) for rents paid to occupy social housing developments, allowing the Office to retain and grow its portfolio with minimal operating budget support.
  • Social housing developments will allow for tenant leadership boards capable of reviewing and authorizing property management contracts and community rules. These boards will be empowered to work with the Office of Social Housing Developments to hold their building management accountable for quality, responsive service and strong financial stewardship, including technical assistance from the Office of Tenant Advocate. The Office of Social Housing will also be responsible for staffing a new social housing coordinating council composed of public officials, housing experts, and tenants to advance the creation and maintenance of social housing.
  • Finally, the bill amends the District’s Opportunity to Purchase Act (DOPA) and disposition authority (§ 10–801) to incentivize the use of excess District-owned properties as social housing. Too often the District gives away valuable land to developers in the name of affordable housing without those properties delivering or sustaining deeply affordable housing. This bill requires the Mayor to meaningfully articulate why dispositions in the name of affordable housing would produce more permanently affordable housing than could be done with social housing.
  • The Green New Deal for Housing Amendment Act of 2022 is co-introduced by Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Trayon White, Brooke Pinto, Charles Allen, Brooke Pinto, and Anita Bonds.

Green New Deal for a Lead-Free DC Amendment Act of 2022

  • Accelerates the removal of hazardous lead water service lines on public and private properties by requiring property owners to participate in a program administered by DC Water and DOEE, by increasing financial assistance for voluntary removal of lead lines, and by creating a job training program at the DC Infrastructure Academy to grow the District’s lead remediation workforce. 
  • Lead removal from District public property and government-owned and government-leased buildings must be completed by 2028; private properties must remove all lead water service lines by January 1, 2030.
  • This Act doubles the grant amount for voluntary remediation compliance to $5,000, and also creates a new tax credit for lead line removal regardless of a property owner’s income level. Beginning June 2025, all private property owners who still have lead water service lines in use on their property will be able to participate in the District’s mandatory replacement program by paying only a copayment. 
  • The Act also empowers tenants to hold landlords accountable for program participation and full lead remediation in their building by authorizing tenants to file a private right of action. 
  • In order to ensure the District can meet its ambitious goal of removing all 28,000 remaining lead water service lines by 2030, we need to expand our workforce to service more homes; this Act requires the District to train at least 50 new lead remediation specialists in each cohort of a new job training program to be offered through the DC Infrastructure Academy. 
  • The Act also strengthens the District’s job training programs by bringing unions to the table in meeting our workforce development goals. In addition, it closes loopholes in District minimum wage and sick leave laws to ensure all people working in DC are paid fairly and all our on-the-job learners are able to be afforded paid sick time to care for themselves and ensure healthy workplaces.