The International Information Center for Geotechnical Engineers

The Economic and Social Impacts of Brownfield Redevelopment - Effect of Cleanup Grants on Housing Values


The most obvious benefit of investing in brownfield redevelopment is environmental, but there are more social benefits to increasing the number of brownfields that are redeveloped than improving habitat.

Brownfields have a real and adverse impact on the health of those who live by them (Lit 2002). Legacy contamination on brownfield sites impacts those who live around them. Wayne County is ranked as the least healthy among Michigan’s 82 counties, and is home to the most brownfields. Though no study has made a definitive connection between these two statistics, based on the known impact contaminants like heavy metals and petroleum byproducts, as well as definitive connections between health problems and brownfields elsewhere (Lit 2002), it is safe to say that cleaning up brownfields would have a positive impact on the health of those who live around them.

When the public sector invests in the cleanup of brownfield sites, it can ensure that the community has a say in how the land is to be used. Local agencies like the Detroit-Wayne County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority Coalition make sure the social needs of communities surrounding brownfield sites that are to be redeveloped are addressed. Public funding of brownfield sites ensures that public interests are considered. On a national level, EPA grants have requirements for community outreach built into them. These stipulations help ensure that communities have a long-term plan and infrastructure for making decisions regarding redevelopment. This is especially clear in the RLF Grant program. These grants give capital to an entity that loans money locally, and require that a board is in place to ensure projects align with the community’s future.

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