Federal and state funds for affordable housing developments can make these projects profitable and attractive for developers. However, it’s important that those who are new to government-funded affordable housing construction be aware that the environmental review process will be different.
Any project fully or partially funded by federal and/or state governments, such as through the HOME, CBDG, or SHIP is required by law to undergo environmental reviews per the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, associated with HUD’s regulations 24 CFR Parts 50 and 58.
Here’s what developers need to know about environmental reviews for federally funded affordable housing.
There are different requirements for environmental review depending on whether you will be developing raw land, infilling a previously developed but currently empty urban location, tearing down an existing facility to build something new, or renovating an existing property for use as affordable housing.
Raw land development will require standard Environmental Site Assessments, along with additional requirements mandated by the federal government and state governments, including review by wildlife authorities, tribal authorities, and others. They also require all the standard environmental review and mitigation efforts required for other projects.
Infill locations will require Environmental Site Assessments with a focus on the types of possible contamination based on previous use. These will be more extensive than for standard projects due to the requirements for livability, including potential radon assessment and reviews for the presence of noxious fumes, odors, and other contaminants that would decrease the quality of life for occupants.
When an existing building must be demolished or renovated, the project will require asbestos, lead, and other testing, as well as remediation and mitigation plans.
These are just a few of the additional requirements demanded for affordable housing projects before a project can begin.
The affordable housing requirements demand a high quality of living for occupants, and this means that you must assess the site’s appropriateness based in part on an environmental review of adjoining properties.
In addition to the potential for contamination sources, your review will need to consider:
When it comes to affordable housing projects, the environment includes much more than just the physical aspects of the property and adjoining properties. It also must be situated in such a manner that it provides access to city infrastructure necessary for living and working, and it must do so in a way that is supportive of low income families.
For instance, your environmental review must consider access to public transportation, schools, water, sewer, and trash pickup. Local schools and other existing infrastructure must be able to handle the influx of new students. This process requires extensive collaboration with municipal, state, and federal agencies and authorities to ensure every aspect of the infrastructural environment is assessed and accounted for.
An environmental review that reveals problems will not always prevent development. Noise sources, the presence of contamination, and lack of infrastructure can sometimes be mitigated. If your planned site has one of these problems, your environmental review should include a mitigation plan to bring the property into compliance with requirements.
In other cases, mitigation will not be possible. For instance, if the planned site lies within the radius of a potentially explosive site such as an oil refinery, there can be no mitigation and the development will not be able to proceed. This possibility must be taken into account in assessing potential sites before capital is committed to the project.
As you can see, environmental reviews for Federal or State funded affordable housing projects are substantially more complex than for a standard development. It pays to partner with an environmental review firm with experience in affordable housing projects, and to begin the environmental review process early in planning, before committing capital.
We would love to be your environmental review partner for your next affordable housing project. Contact our team of experts to learn more today.