Housing and Brownfields

Affordable housing is a critical need in communities throughout Colorado. A variety of influences make affordable housing projects challenging to realize, such as construction and labor costs, an increase in second home and investment purchases, lack of housing supply, and of course land values. Brownfields can offer an opportunity for local governments or nonprofits to acquire lower cost land, while also accessing no-cost clean up resources to restore the land to a standard that is safe for residential development. With historic levels of funding for brownfields revitalization and a variety of funding and technical assistance opportunities available for affordable housing, this is a great time to explore the potential for accessing and combining these resources. Contact the Colorado Brownfields Partnership to learn more about how you can leverage brownfields and affordable housing resources to turn your brownfield site into an affordable housing asset.

Anvil Mountain affordable housing project on a former brownfield, Silverton, CO

Brownfields present a unique opportunity to address affordable housing challenges. Diverse  market challenges, including high land costs, make the delivery of affordable housing difficult.  Brownfields, which contain known or suspected environmental contaminants, can provide lower cost land. Of course, contaminants must be remediated to a high standard for any residential development at any price point. 

Municipalities and non-profit housing organizations are ideally positioned to leverage brownfields for affordable housing because they are eligible for free resources to get a site cleaned up and ready for new housing. Through the state brownfield program, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) offers resources to assess environmental contamination and clean up the property. To learn about Phase I and II brownfields assessments, watch this short informational video on the Colorado Brownfields Partnership website. 

For-profit affordable housing developers can also benefit from financing and tools available for brownfields cleanup through the Voluntary Cleanup and Redevelopment Program (VCUP). VCUP enables access to a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) and Tax Credits that offset cleanup costs. More information on VCUP can be viewed in this brief informational video on the Colorado Brownfields Partnership website. 

In some cases, private property owners may partner with municipalities or non-profit organizations on brownfields projects, harnessing resources available to each party. Affordable housing, which demonstrates a clear community benefit, is an ideal fit for brownfields funding as it creates a win-win-win scenario, where the municipality, property owner, and community all benefit. 

Once a brownfield is cleaned to the high standard required for residential reuse, it may be developed as affordable housing. Layering both brownfields and affordable housing resources can allow housing projects to get off the ground, and keep the units affordable. Recognizing a critical statewide need for more housing, Colorado state programs have expanded to support implementation and financing of affordable housing projects. To learn more about implementing affordable housing, check out the DOH Affordable Housing Toolkit.

Some of the new Department of Housing (DOH) funding requires that municipalities submit and finalize a baseline commitment with DOH by November 1, 2023. To prepare a baseline commitment, communities will need to identify their existing affordable housing stock. To learn more and submit your baseline commitment, visit: https://engagedola.org/prop-123 

Affordable housing is just one redevelopment scenario for a brownfield site. Yet with current levels of expanded brownfields and housing resources, paired with a critical need for housing across Colorado, there is great opportunity to turn your brownfield site into an affordable housing asset.

Silverton Compass Master Plan

We are thrilled to announce the adoption of the new Town of Silverton Master Plan! The three year process of visioning, goal setting and the writing of the master plan stemmed from a Colorado Brownfields Partnership Brownfields Redevelopment and Revitalization Workshop.

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Accessing State Brownfields Resources

We at the Colorado Brownfields Partnership are experts in helping Colorado communities envision, learn, and plan for the future of their brownfields and community. But once that work is done, we know that applying for state assistance is a key step towards brownfield revitalization success.

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Community Visioning in Silverton, CO

By supporting a community-wide vision through assistance, the Partnership believes Silverton will be able to move towards strategies identified in the process that will equip the community to tackle future brownfield projects.

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How to Spot a Brownfield

vacant lot

Unless you’re a brownfield nerd like us at the Colorado Brownfields Partnership, the term “brownfield” may not sit at the front of your brain everyday. But once you understand the definition of a brownfield, and how to identify them, you’ll be amazed at how frequently you encounter them.

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That Vacant Gas Station Could Be a Key to Your Recovery

As community advocates, supporters, and do-ers, the pandemic hasn’t been easy on any of us. These times are unpredictable, and so is the future of the places we call home. We know local leaders are working hard to manage these economic challenges and prepare for recovery, but the situation we’re in is one that nobody has experience dealing with.

One opportunity in this pandemic is that communities are able to shape the recovery of their economies to make them better than they were before, and there are many ways to make that happen.

Although this pandemic has stunted our economies, it has not decreased the value of properties, and the pressure to grow has not subsided. With some clean up and investment, those old, abandoned sites and buildings in your town are opportunities for economic drivers during these turbulent times. While these sites may not be in use or are environmentally contaminated due to the site’s age or past usage, there is great opportunity there. These sites are called brownfields.

You may be picturing that abandoned gas station or empty, historic building in your town. Don’t know if it’s “contaminated”? Good news- you don’t have to know to receive support and assistance from the Colorado Brownfields Partnership.

Community Builders acts as the outreach organization for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Brownfields program. Together, we’re known as the Colorado Brownfields Partnership, and we want to help you and your Colorado community during the COVID pandemic.

We provide education and support to communities in understanding brownfields sites and how to go about revitalization and redevelopment. This support is always free, and we welcome your questions and inquiries.

We also connect communities, non-profits, and property owners with tools, low interest loans, and grants to help restore their contaminated properties. From asbestus and lead paint testing, to completing a successful clean-up, we can help you obtain the financial resources to prime your property for redevelopment.


Free Planning Support

  • Workshops with residents, property owners, and community leaders that provide information about brownfields, how to access Colorado Brownfields financial resources, and problem solve existing brownfield sites. Fortunately, we can do these workshops virtually.
  • Assistance to work directly with a community to support long-term planning and visioning efforts that spur economic development through reuse, revitalization, placed based economic growth, and placemaking. Communities will work with us to develop actionable strategies to prepare properties for development, all while strengthening their public-private partnerships and identifying creative funding sources.
  • On-call coaching to ensure your project continues moving forward. 

Financial Resources

  • Targeted Brownfield Assessments to assist non-profits, municipalities and private property owners with determining if a site is contaminated and if clean up is necessary. These are known as a phase 1 and phase 2 assessments.
  • A Voluntary Cleanup Program(VCUP)which provides property owners and potential buyers with state approved cleanup plans and/or no action determinations.
  • Brownfields Tax Credits to assist in offsetting cleanup costs.
  • Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund to access low-interest and flexible term funding for cleanup costs.
  • Colorado Brownfield Cleanup Grants available to governments and nonprofits.

If your community is exploring options for economic recovery during this time, consider a brownfield site. Only Colorado communities are eligible for the Colorado Brownfields Partnership resources, but many communities in the West can find brownfields resources in their state.  Contact us to see how we can support your community.