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EPA brownfield program funding will turn tainted sites into affordable housing, more

PMG FILE PHOTO - Portland received $500,000 in federal grant funding Thursday, May 12, to assess and clean up potential "brownfields," which are sites like former gas stations where past pollution is a barrier to redevelopment.Portland has received more federal funding to help revitalize properties where pollution or hazardous substances are a barrier to redevelopment.

Such sites, called "brownfields," are often former gas stations, warehouses or industrial facilities where past uses caused soil or water contamination.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday, May 12, that Portland would receive $500,000 to conduct site assessments, develop cleanup plans and support community engagement through its existing brownfield program.

The three-year grant targets underserved areas of East, North and Northeast Portland and will focus on sites that could support affordable housing, said officials with the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.

"These dollars will help turn polluted properties into productive ones, and I'm particularly proud that the city will focus this grant on areas of East Portland and North and Northeast Portland to help turn vacant sites into affordable housing and other needed uses," said Portland Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who heads the city's environmental services bureau.

Portland was one of 265 communities nationwide awarded brownfield program funding for more than $250 million through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed last fall.

Portland's brownfield program has offered financial and technical assistance to property owners for years, helping them determine what contaminants are present and create cleanup plans sometimes decades after use concluded.

Officials report that there are more than 900 acres of potential brownfield sites across the city.

About $3.8 million in previous EPA funding has supported more than 70 brownfield projects, creating parks and gardens and providing space for businesses and nonprofits. Fourteen of the projects led to 770 affordable housing units, Portland data shows.

A former gas station in Northeast Portland is one site currently being redeveloped into affordable housing.

Another former brownfield being redeveloped into affordable housing is at Northeast 14th Avenue and Killingsworth Street. The Isaka Shamsud-Din Estates, named after the celebrated Black Portland artist, will use the city government's N/NE Housing Preference Policy to address the harmful impacts of urban renewal by giving preference to housing applicants with generational ties to the area.

Eight other local governments and agencies in Oregon also received EPA grants amounting to $8.3 million in funding for brownfields statewide.

Learn more about Portland's brownfield program on the city's website.

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