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Government News

Housing Subcommittee to Discuss Brownfields Bill

March 5, 2002

The House Financial Services Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Marge Roukema (NJ), will hold a hearing to discuss a bill to provide local governments and the Department of Housing and Urban Development greater flexibility to rehabilitate brownfields sites.

The Subcommittee will meet at 10 a.m. on March 6 in room 2128 of the Rayburn Building. The Brownfields Redevelopment Enhancement Act, H.R. 2941, was introduced by Rep. Gary G. Miller (R-CA) on Sept. 21.

"With over 500,000 brownfields sites across this country, and many of those in New Jersey, it is imperative that we do everything we can to help communities cleanup and redevelop these sites," Chairwoman Roukema said. "H.R. 2941 will finally give communities the flexibility they need to take full advantage of HUD?s brownfields program. In addition, it will open the door for smaller communities who want to participate in the program."

There is widespread consensus over the need to cleanup brownfields sites across the country. Brownfields sites are those where redevelopment is complicated by potential environmental contamination, but that are less seriously contaminated than those designated as Superfund sites. By promoting the redevelopment of these sites and revitalizing the communities around them, local jurisdictions would improve the quality of life and the environment in these areas.

Historically, developers have been reluctant to purchase brownfields sites out of concern that they could become entangled in legal disputes and forced to pay for unexpected cleanup costs. Recent changes in state and federal law have attempted to clarify liability standards. This could lead to additional brownfields development and more interest in HUD?s brownfields programs.

"I am pleased the Subcommittee will be studying one of the greatest obstacles small communities must overcome in order to redevelop brownfields," stated Rep. Miller.

H.R. 2941 focuses on providing access to capital for local entities that traditionally have had trouble obtaining financing for brownfields redevelopment activities.

Most notably, H.R. 2941 would authorize appropriations for the Brownfields Economic Development Initiative (BEDI) program for the first time and would eliminate the requirement that local governments obtain Section 108 loan guarantees as a condition to receiving BEDI grant funding. De-linking BEDI grants from Section 108 loan guarantees is important because some small cities have great difficulty in securing, or are unable to secure, Section 108 guarantees.

H.R. 2941 would also establish a pilot program for national redevelopment of brownfields. With this authority, the HUD Secretary would be able to fund a common pool for economic development loans available to eligible local governments and distribute these loans on a competitive basis.

"While the vast majority of financing for brownfields projects will ultimately come from the private sector, the government has an important part to play," said Committee Chairman Michael G. Oxley, whose home state of Ohio enacted one of the first state cleanup programs. "This Committee is working to assure developers and bankers that brownfields are good investments that will put abandoned properties back to productive use."

Scheduled to testify:

Panel I

  • Roy Bernardi, Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Panel II

  • Lydia Reid, Mayor, Mansfield, Ohio

  • Charlie Bartsch, Executive Director, Northeast-Midwest Coalition

  • John Murphy, Executive Director, National Association for County Community and Economic Development

Additional witnesses may be added.

Source: House Financial Services Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee

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