Managing the Impacts of Gentrification: Community Benefit Agreements

There are pros and cons to gentrification. Some communities have used community benefit agreements to maximize the positive impacts of gentrification while minimizing the adverse effects that come with it.

A Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), a contract signed by community groups and a real estate developer, requires the developer to provide specific amenities and/or mitigations to the local community or neighborhood. In exchange, the community groups agree to publicly support the project, or at least not oppose it. Often, negotiating a CBA relies heavily upon the formation of a multi-issue, broad-based community coalition including community, environmental, faith-based, and labor organizations. It can be attractive to developers and cities, presenting a win-win for economic growth and community sustainability.

An example of a city that uses a CBA is Santa Monica. In March, the Santa Monica Planning Commission voted to recommend the city council approve a development agreement for a seven-story, mixed-use structure a block from the soon-to-open Expo Light Rail station. Community benefits were required as part of the development agreement. The largest community benefit is the dedication of land for a residential complex with 64 affordable housing units. Another community benefit is a contribution of more than $5 million to the city for transportation, parks and recreation, affordable housing, historic preservation, and early childhood development programs. Other community benefits include a community meeting space, a local hiring program, and a recycled water infrastructure program. A CBA can help to ensure that everybody wins.

Written by Jeff Khau, an Analyst at RSG