My name is Mike Ford. I own a full service residential and commercial real estate company in Clark, New Jersey, and I have been a real estate broker for 27 years. I am also the 2002 Regional Vice President for NAR Region 2.
It is often said - and I agree - that REALTORS(r) don't sell homes, we sell communities. The more than 760,00 members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS(r), real estate professionals involved in all aspects of the real estate industry, are concerned and active members of our communities. We want clean air, clean water and clean soil. We want to see contaminated properties cleaned up and returned to the marketplace. We care about a healthy quality of life as well as a vibrant economy, and we are willing to do our part to maintain that important balance.
NAR supports S. 350 because it will effectively promote the cleanup and redevelopment of the hundreds of thousands of our nation's brownfields sites. Throughout the country, the real estate industry is becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of redeveloping brownfields sites. Old factories and warehouses are being replaced with cultural facilities, parks and apartment communities. At the same time that they provide a cleaner and safer environment, these revitalized sites increase the tax base, create jobs and provide new housing.
In my home state of New Jersey, for example, a recent Rutgers University report estimates that - within 10 years - brownfields redevelopment can create 66,000 permanent jobs, new housing for 71,000 people, and $62 million in new tax revenues. Under the strong leadership of Governor Whitman, New Jersey has worked closely with the private sector and begun an ambitious program to assess and remediate our 8,000 contaminated sites. One private developer took advantage of a state program which reimburses up to 75 percent of remediation and cleanup costs to turn an abandoned factory site into a mixed-use project which includes commercial, retail and housing.
Support for brownfields redevelopment also fits within NAR's Smart Growth Initiative, our new program to advocate public policies which seek to maintain community quality of life while allowing market forces to generate growth.
Brownfields redevelopment is occurring because federal, state and local governments have banded together to creatively attack the brownfields problem by providing a variety of incentives and assistance. However, significant hurdles remain. A shortage of cleanup funds and liability concerns continue to impede brownfields redevelopment.
S. 350 effectively addresses these issues. First of all, it provides needed funding to federal and state brownfields programs.
Secondly, the bill clarifies the Superfund liability protection for innocent landowners who have not caused or contributed to hazardous waste contamination. It's important to get these innocent property owners out of the liability net so that resources can be targeted toward cleanup rather than litigation. When it comes to Superfund cleanup, we must ensure that the real polluters pay so that contaminated sites are returned to productive use as quickly as possible.
Finally, S. 350 recognizes successful cleanups undertaken under state brownfields programs. Through their programs, most of these states provide real estate developers with incentives to make brownfields redevelopment more attractive.
Typically, the state will provide some form of liability relief once it has approved a cleanup. In New Jersey, relief comes in the form of a "No Further Action" letter from the state DEP. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the federal EPA will not assert authority at a future date and require additional cleanup. Without some degree of certainty that they are protected from federal as well as from state liability, developers are reluctant to undertake development of contaminated sites. This bill provides the certainty they need to go forward.
In New Jersey, I've seen what can be accomplished when local, state and federal government work together with private business interests to make something out of nothing. In my hometown of Clark, General Motors cleaned up a contaminated property and funded construction of a golf course. The local government runs the course and makes a healthy profit.
S. 350 presents a "win-win" opportunity for everyone by cleaning up hazardous waste sites, putting them to new and productive uses, and enhancing community growth. Now is the time for Congress to assert bi-partisan leadership and reinforce our nationwide effort to turn "brownfields" into "greenfields." NAR looks forward to working with this Committee and the entire Senate to pass a brownfields bill in the 107th Congress.
Thank you again for the opportunity to present the views of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS(r). I'm happy to answer any questions.