Understanding Community Benefits Agreements: Equitable Development, Social Justice and Other Considerations for Developers, Municipalities and Community Organizations
41 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2008 Last revised: 23 Jul 2013
Date Written: September 1, 2008
The opportunity to develop a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) typically arises when a developer announces plans to construct a major project, such as a stadium or a theater complex. Local residents and business owners may often welcome these projects, but they may also have legitimate fears, such as: Will the project displace local residents and local businesses, either physically or through gentrification? Will it cause traffic problems and generate noise, pollution, or other nuisances? Will the economic development benefits espoused by the developer actually create jobs that pay a living wage and offer decent benefits for residents in the neighborhood or in a larger geographic community? Will the developer seek and/or welcome public participation in the project design and review of environmental and community impacts? In short, will the developer and the resulting built project be good neighbors?
This article offers an analysis of legal and policy issues surrounding the development, implementation and enforcement of CBAs. Part II offers a general explanation of CBAs - what they are, what types of benefits they commonly include, and how they are negotiated and finalized. Part III briefly discusses the reasons behind the popularity of CBAs, and explains how they have been tied to smart growth and other social justice issues. Part IV reviews select CBAs from various cities, offering examples of successful models as well as discussing more controversial efforts. These case studies not only assist in understanding the dynamics of the CBA negotiating process, but also they illustrate some of the practical difficulties associated with the CBA model. These problems are discussed in greater depth in Part V. Part VI presents the legal issues surrounding CBAs, including questions of enforceability and validity. Finally, Part VII offers a checklist of items to be considered by developers, communities and municipalities before and during negotiations.
Keywords: community benefits agreements, CBAs, social justice, environmental justice, community development, public participation
JEL Classification: J38, K11, K12, K31, K32, R14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation