More Green for Brownsfields
A Bronwfields project in Clearwater.
Five years ago, Terry Manning helped establish an $800,000 revolving loan fund to assist a private developer with the cleanup of an arsenic-contaminated golf course in West Palm Beach. But the developer had to look elsewhere to find financing to actually build the 264-unit affordable housing complex on the site. The Malibu Bay project finally came together with $2.9 million from the developer and $20 million in multifamily housing revenue bonds. "If we had then the incentives we have today, it would have helped the project a lot more," says Manning, a senior planner and brownfields coordinator for the South Florida Regional Planning Council.
In June, Gov. Jeb Bush approved an overhaul of Florida's brownfields program, making it easier and more lucrative for developers to turn blighted properties into affordable residences. The new law increases the amount of existing loan guarantees for cleanup activities from 10% to 50%, and by another 25% where affordable housing is created. Developers may recover as much as $1 million annually in tax credits for their cleanup costs: A property owner can recover 50% each year, subject to a maximum of $500,000, or 75% of their costs if the project contains affordable housing. They may capture another 25% in tax credits, up to a maximum of $500,000, for the total cleanup cost of the project.
A hot real estate market has spurred considerable brownfields activity, generating 12,000-plus jobs and $547 million in investment since the state first enacted the Brownfields Redevelopment Program in 1997 ("Recycled Real Estate," October 2005, FloridaTrend.com). As older urban neighborhoods become increasingly attractive and viable locations for homes, beefing up the incentives for affordable housing will encourage even more infill, predicts Tallahassee lawyer Teri Donaldson, lead partner for the environment, energy and resources group of Tew Cardenas law firm.
Manning hopes the added incentives will jump-start projects that are "teetering on the edge." Developers could see more action in Congress as federal lawmakers consider reauthorizing the Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2001, which is set to expire at the end of the fiscal year.