Why is Ecology supporting affordable housing developments?
Washington is in dire need of affordable housing across the state. Contamination, or even the suspicion of contamination, drives up the costs of housing development. The high cost leaves little incentive for developers to build affordable housing.
In addition to the usual risks of redevelopment, cleaning up contaminated sites can be a complex process with considerable risk. The cost and time associated with cleaning up a site is often poorly understood; as a result, many sites are left vacant or underused for years, even decades. Supporting cleanups for affordable housing helps make sure the cleanup gets done, protecting the community’s health and the environment.
So far we have invested over $6 million to support the planning, investigation, and cleanup of several properties for use as affordable housing. Our first project, the Mount Baker Housing Authority’s Gateway development, has started construction. It is planned as a residential complex with about 200 affordable housing units in Seattle’s Mt. Baker neighborhood, next to the Mt. Baker Link station. This development highlights the exciting potential for turning contaminated properties into affordable community- and transit-oriented housing.
Affordable Housing Grants: current projects
We created a permanent, competitive grant program specifically for affordable housing cleanups. Ecology’s Affordable Housing Cleanup Grant Program will provide grants for planning and cleanup of contaminated sites intended for affordable housing development. The program will support communities by:
- Cleaning up environmental contamination for residential use.
- Providing meaningful community engagement that informs and shapes decisions throughout the cleanup process.
- Integrating longer-term goals of shared economic and community asset building across a diverse population.
Affordable housing cleanup grants
The first solicitation for affordable housing cleanup projects ended March 8, 2022. Projects receiving grant funding for the 2023–2025 biennium will be announced in 2023.
In the meantime, we’re helping local governments and developers identify resources that are already available to keep affordable housing projects moving forward. If you would like assistance on a potential project, please contact us.
Affordable housing planning grants
The grant program also includes grants for planning affordable housing cleanup projects. In the summer of 2023, we will solicit proposals for planning grants.
Planning grants help developers better understand if a property is suitable for residential use before redeveloping the property.
Ecology oversight for projects without grant funding
Ecology and potentially liable persons often work cooperatively to reach cleanup solutions. Options for working with us include formal agreements such as consent decrees and agreed orders, and seeking technical assistance through the Voluntary Cleanup Program. These mechanisms allow us to take an active role in cleanup, providing help to potentially liable persons and minimizing costs by ensuring the job meets state standards.
If you have a potential affordable housing project at a confirmed or suspected contaminated site and would like to request Ecology oversight under a formal agreement, please contact us.