Do Community Benefits Agreements Produce Sustainable Results?

Large-scale real estate development in low-income neighborhoods is a major source of municipal-level conflict in the United States. One way developers and communities have tried to resolve these conflicts is through negotiating Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs). In theory, these agreements are a great idea, but Rebecca Economos (MCP ’11) looked at five New York City-based case studies and found troubling results. She claims the ad-hoc nature of the negotiations leads to confusion and wildly different outcomes for different communities. Rebecca presents a new model for benefits negotiations that includes six key components: 1) Community inclusion in the RFP or project visioning process; 2) Establishment of formal exactions; 3) Community representation; 4) Community impact analysis; 5) Fiscal accountability; 6) Structured implementation.

Economos claims that, based on her research, if this model were formalized and implemented, it would address the majority of the concerns raised by the stakeholders she studied. Read more in her thesis, “Rethinking Community Benefits Agreements.”