Idea: Green Collar Jobs and Affordable Housing
American families have long felt squeezed, if not choked, by housing expenses (emphasis mine):
Specifically, between 1996 and 2006, all the major categories of homeowner expenses increased faster than incomes. Mortgage payments increased 46 percent, utilities 43 percent, property taxes 66 percent, and property insurance 83 percent. By contrast, homeowner incomes increased by 36.3 percent. Rental costs also increased faster than incomes. Rents increased by 51 percent between 1996 and 2006, while renter incomes increased only 31.4 percent over the same period.
And this was before the economic nightmare become a full-blown crisis. Low-income families, in particular, have been experiencing a far more brutal housing reality and such poverty must not only be resolved but the housing solution can also help create new jobs and combat climate change:
In short, affordable housing, consisting of almost 6 million apartments (nearly 17 percent of the nation’s 35 million rental units), is federally assisted in some way and thus open to clearly targeted green policies. Much of this housing is at least 20 years old, with more than 65 percent of public housing stock built before 1970. Construction of these federally assisted properties predated today’s green technologies. A targeted emphasis on energy conservation means they are prime candidates for necessary renovation work that will generate significant energy and CO2 reductions.
Furthermore, current federal government annual spending on affordable housing energy costs is approximately $5 billion, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report, yet the government can increase energy efficiency by 25 percent to 40 percent through rehabilitation work that is relatively inexpensive—at an estimated cost of just $2,500 to $5,000 per unit. Once upgrades are completed, savings are locked in for the long term. Spending today on a large scale to retrofit millions of units stimulates construction activity, creates jobs, and produces better-quality housing and long-term energy cost reductions.
However, I would advocate focusing more on building new homes, rather than just green retrofitting, since so many housing projects need a full overhaul, it creates more jobs, pumps more money into the economy, and allows us to address long-standing fundamental problems with public housing. Already in Chile there has been a great housing project (Please, click me!) that tackles these underlying problems (emphasis mine):
And that's just in Chile, with very little money ($7500 government subsidy to pay for the land, infrastructure, and architecture per unit), and in the middle of a damn desert. Just imagine what we could do.
We think that social housing should be seen as an investment and not as an expense. So we had to make that the initial subsidy can add value over time. All of us,when buying a house expect it to increase its value. But social housing, in an unacceptable proportion, is more similar to buy a car than to buy a house; every day, its value decreases.
It is very important to correct this, because Chile will spend 10 billion dollars in the next 20 years to overcome the housing deficit. But also at the small family scale, the housing subsidy received from the State will be, by far, the biggest aid ever. So, if that subsidy can add value over time, it could mean the key turning point to leave poverty.