Affordable housing-related cleanup

For more than 30 years, we’ve been cleaning up contaminated properties — more than 7,000 completed cleanups so far. Removing toxic threats helps protect human health and the environment, and opens the door to put properties back into use. Ecology is now working to make it easier for affordable housing developers to redevelop once-contaminated properties into housing that communities can afford.

The Mt. Baker Housing Authority is cleaning up two toxics sites to transform this Seattle neighborhood and provide affordable housing. 

In support of the critical need for affordable housing, the 2018 Washington State Legislature supported linking cleanups with affordable housing in three critical ways.

  • Directed us to collaborate with the Department of Commerce to develop a competitive process to fund recipients that use their cleaned-up property to build affordable housing.
  • Provided $6.2 million in funding to support the Mt. Baker Housing Authority’s cleanup of land for the development of The Maddux, a project expected to create 144 units of affordable housing in southeast Seattle.
  • Provided funds for Ecology to distribute to local governments to investigate and plan cleanup for potential affordable housing development.

Collaborating with the Department of Commerce

In partnership with the Department of Commerce, we developed a competitive funding process for funding recipients who will use their cleaned-up properties to build affordable housing.

During a 2018 solicitation process, we received seven complete applications. They covered seven contaminated locations, with a self-reported potential to provide 782 affordable housing units for a current estimated investigation and cleanup cost of $5,210,000. As part of this process, we published the Healthy Housing Remediation: 2018 Results and Recommendations report for the legislature.

Key findings

  • Using cleaned-up sites for building affordable housing can help relieve the pressures on public housing and preserve existing communities.

  • The cost of cleanup affects the cost of development and may contribute to higher purchase prices or rents for new tenants, home buyers, and customers.

  • This added cost, combined with other factors driving up property value, can lead to displacement and disruption of existing communities.

One of our key recommendations in the report is to establish a pilot program that provides easier access to funding for non-government affordable housing developers. This will provide examples of how these cleanups can proceed, and data for us and Commerce to inform the development of a permanent program. Read the report for more information.

Working with Mt. Baker Housing

The Mount Baker Housing Authority’s development of The Maddux — supported in part by $6.2 million in funding from the legislature — is a planned residential complex with 144 affordable housing units in Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood.

This development has acted as a demonstration project highlighting the exciting potential for turning contaminated properties into affordable community- and transit-oriented housing opportunities.

For the first time, we are working with a nonprofit developer. The organization is currently cleaning up and redeveloping five contaminated properties, and we entered into an agreement to provide funding to facilitate the site’s cleanup. Once cleanup is complete and housing is constructed, the neighborhood will be transformed to mixed-use retail and residential space — allowing residents to live near where they work.

Providing funding to local governments 

In 2018, the Legislature provided us with an additional $1 million for Integrated Planning Grants to be used for affordable housing projects. These are flexible grants that local governments can use to support pre-construction cleanup activities, including planning, investigation, community involvement, education, and outreach.

  • Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority — awarded $200,000 to examine the cleanup needs and development potential of two contaminated sites in the Seattle Chinatown International District.

  • City of Wenatchee — awarded $200,000 to evaluate a former tree fruit research facility for potential acquisition and redevelopment into a community asset that will support affordable housing. Funded work included a focused site assessment and development of an Integrated Plan, including a housing study. The site analysis and conceptual planning indicate that the study area could reasonably support 111 units totaling 278 beds.

  • Port of Bellingham — awarded $200,000 to assess approximately three acres near downtown Bellingham for potentially building up to 50 affordable housing units, work-live spaces, ground-floor commercial spaces, a community kitchen, and a public open space. 

  • ​City of Kennewick — awarded $200,000 to redevelop an approximately 10-acre former maintenance yard into the Kennewick Housing Authority Multi-Family Housing Complex with 110 units. The city completed environmental investigations and found no contamination above cleanup levels. The city is planning to use the remaining funding for a housing market analysis and feasibility study.