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GRIST climate justice solutions
When U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman visited his childhood home in Harlem’s East River Houses last winter, he was struck by a piece of graffiti at the entrance.
The tag read, simply, “Help.”
For Bowman, it was a fitting testament to the state of New York City’s public housing, which aims to provide “safe, affordable housing” too low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.
In recent years, however, the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, has become a poster child of environmental injustice and government neglect.
The agency faces a $40 billion backlog of lead paint, mould, heat and gas outages, and myriad other problems to fix.
This has translated into a public health crisis for its half-million residents — more than the population of Atlanta, Georgia — which, like so many other symptoms of inequality, has only deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sustainability in the ongoing running costs of housing remains largely aspirational in many parts of the world.
But such a transformation is well underway in other cities around the world — perhaps none more than Paris, which has been retrofitting thousands of public housing units per year for more than a decade.
The city’s ambitious retrofit campaign may offer some insights into how housing authorities could make essential repairs while also reducing building emissions, and respecting tenants’ rights during tricky renovations.