Is your building a comfortable temperature in the winter? Do materials in the building trigger your children’s allergies? Is your building located near a highway, powerplant, or other source of pollution? Your right to a safe and healthy home is part of a bigger movement: environmental justice.
The environment is where we live, work and play. Our homes, schools, workplaces, parks and roads are all a part of our urban environment. Environmental justice is intertwined with the immigration system; the food system; the health system; and labor movements. Because people spend so much time in their homes, housing is an incredibly important aspect of environmental justice.
HDFC co-ops often face high environmental burdens from outdated machinery and deferred maintenance. Inefficient and outdated homes are less comfortable, and they can actually make you sick. HDFC co-ops will also be among the first to feel the effects of climate change: more severe storms, heatwaves, and more.
HDFC residents are fighting for environmental justice in their homes and neighborhoods. They’re part of a grassroots movement for a just transition to a fossil fuel-free future: one that centers workers, families, people of color, and frontline communities.
Why do so many HDFCs have outdated equipment and deferred maintenance?
In New York City, communities of color face higher environmental hazards, from air pollution to heat vulnerability to household pests, because of systemic racism and the legacy of redlining. In the 1970s, landlord negligence and abandonment alongside City disinvestment resulted in plummeting real estate values in communities of color. In many cases, communities of color were able to leverage landlord abandonment to gain control of their own homes by converting to affordable HDFC co-ops. Although for many communities of color in those neighborhoods, homesteading and tenant purchase options paved the way for low-income homeownership opportunities and the creation of HDFC co-ops, the buildings residents inherited were often severely degraded from years of deferred maintenance.
Holes in the walls, outdated or failing heating equipment, pests, and dangerous materials like lead and asbestos were common. With some support from the City, residents rehabbed their own buildings as best as they could. They were often not skilled laborers, and not using professional-grade equipment. Today, maintenance is deferred in many HDFC co-ops, despite the residents’ care for their building. HDFCs have limited income and a mission of affordability for residents and tenants alike. The cost of a new boiler or roof replacement can exceed a small HDFC’s yearly income.
Energy is often an HDFC’s greatest expense, and an inefficient building can drain the budget, making money-saving energy upgrades cost-prohibitive. As machinery grows more and more outdated, energy bills climb, and the building is left in a cycle of deferred maintenance and unbalanced budgets.
How are HDFCs fighting back?
HDFC residents are leading our city to a more just and energy-efficient future. By working in their buildings to reduce carbon emissions through renewable energy and energy efficiency, they’re reducing emissions while lowering energy bills in their building. Reducing carbon emissions is a way to stand up for all New Yorkers by mitigating the impacts of climate change. Lowering energy bills helps keep HDFCs affordable, and keep their residents happy, healthy, and comfortable in their home.