Written by Linda Campbell and Daniel Kravetz
“On Nov. 8, 2016, Detroit residents voted into law the nation’s first Community Benefits Ordinance (CBO). The law requires any developer receiving over a certain threshold of local public subsidies or tax breaks to engage with a local advisory council to address community concerns. As with traditional Community Benefits Agreements (CBA), the developer’s obligations could range from local hiring requirements to affordable housing minimums to the inclusion of public art. As a result of the CBO, six Detroit developers are in a queue to form an agreement to provide community benefits, positioning Detroit to enact more of these agreements than any other city in the nation.
For equitable development activists—especially those who have fought long battles to secure a CBA or other concessions from a grudging developer—Detroit’s CBO and its mandate may seem like major progress. And it is—just not how they may imagine it to be.
In fact, the enacted CBO was not the one that local community leaders proposed and fought for, but rather a rival proposal from a local council member, which inflated the CBO’s minimum thresholds and placed negotiating power in the hands of council appointees instead of neighborhood coalitions. The Detroit People’s Platform, a broad network of local social justice advocates, asserts that Detroit’s CBO-mandated agreements have already been plagued by a lack of community representation and even hostility toward vocal community members who have attended meetings.
What local advocates did win last year was less tangible, but still critical. Over three years, their campaign normalized and popularized the once-fringe notion of community benefits and equitable development among Detroiters, from hundreds of thousands of everyday residents to local media outlets to the candidates for mayor and city council in Detroit’s 2017 elections.”
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This article was published on November 9, 2017 by Shelterforce: The Voice of Community Development, the only independent, non-academic publication covering the worlds of community development, affordable housing, and neighborhood stabilization.
Photo courtesy of Equitable Detroit Coalition and Detroit People’s Platform