A couple of affordable housing projects could soon get a boost as Hennepin County considers granting $2 million to clean up 10 contaminated sites.
The Hennepin County Board public works committee approved the funding Tuesday. The goal is to create more affordable housing and increase economic development and green spaces.
The projects range from reconstructing two parking lots at affordable housing apartments at the University of Minnesota to a minority-owned coffee roaster and adult day care in Minneapolis. The cleanup must be completed within two years and will renovate or construct 270 affordable housing units.
Since the Environmental Response Fund was established in 2001, Hennepin County has granted nearly $67 million for 450 projects to cities, nonprofit groups and for-profit developers and cleaned up more than 3,300 acres of contaminated land. One of those projects included the Surly Brewing Co. site in Minneapolis.
The grants fund asbestos and lead-based paint abatement, soil cleanup and vapor mitigation. The board typically approves grant totals between $2.5 million and $3.5 million each year.
Most of the grant money comes from a state statute that allows the county to collect a mortgage registry and deed tax. In two decades, the projects have generated $375 million in new tax revenue.
Many of the grants address environmental contamination in communities with significant disparities in health, including low-income areas and communities of color. Some of these sites become a catalyst for new development in neighboring areas, which can help address racial disparities in housing, employment and income, according to the county's request for funding approval.
More than 25% of the state's contaminated sites are in Hennepin County, said John Evans, assistant director of the county's environment and energy division. Much of this was caused by chemical spills or improper disposal of hazardous waste before the existence of environmental regulations. In addition, many county buildings were built before 1970 when the use of asbestos and lead-based paint was prevalent, county officials said.
The largest grant of $378,916 went to a developer renovating a tower at Northstar Center in downtown Minneapolis into more than 200 affordable and market-rate housing units. The smallest grant was $50,719 for soil cleanup at a commercial and residential building at 200 SE. Central Av.
Other awarded grants include cleanups at Emerson Village and Seven Points in Minneapolis, Kenzie Terrace Apartments in St. Anthony and the Douglas Drive development in Crystal.
The Minnesota Brownfields Gap Financing Program and City of Lakes Community Land Trust received a total of $475,000 to provide grants to government entities and nonprofit organizations and the removal of asbestos and lead paint from single-family homes.
The full County Board will vote on approval of the $2 million funding on Tuesday.