“When we talk about our right to a clean home, when we talk about retrofitting buildings, what we’re talking about is cleaning our air and cleaning our water,” the congresswoman said Thursday, noting that a significant portion of asthma cases are tied to home environmental issues.
“We have been conditioned [to believe] that basic rights are a luxury and a privilege when they are not.”
“Because when we talk about what housing as a right means, it doesn’t mean that you have a right to four crumbling walls and dirty floor,” she said. “What it means is that we all have a right to dignified housing, good heat, responsible structures, low noise, clean air, and clean water—that’s at an affordable price.”
Ocasio-Cortez recalled her recent tour of an affordable housing unit in Queens—which the congresswoman said resembled her Washington, D.C. apartment in a “luxury” building with a rooftop garden.
“We do not have to be price gauged to live in a building with cockroaches and dirty air and that endanger our kids with lead in the paint. Another world is possible,” she said. “We have been conditioned [to believe] that basic rights are a luxury and a privilege when they are not.”
The town hall was hosted by Housing Justice for All, a campaign led by the Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance, a coalition of tenants, homeless people, manufactured housing residents, and advocates in New York. Other participants in the town hall included New York state Sens. Alessandra Biaggi and Jamaal Bailey and Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez, all Democrats.
The event came as part of the alliance’s ongoing effort to pressure New York state legislators into passing a package of nine housing bills “that would supercharge rent protections in New York” by making rent control universal statewide, before current laws that affect millions of New York City residents expire on June 15.
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Housing Justice for All livestreamed the town hall on Facebook. Watch:
The first paragraph of this post has been updated to clarify Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s statements Thursday.
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