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.


Keep up with the latest brownfield resources including videos, tools, webinars, and grant opportunities.