In cities across the country, communities and real estate developers have shown a willingness to communicate, negotiate, and achieve more equitable outcomes for vulnerable populations. Here in Detroit, we have even memorialized these ideals in a first-of-its-kind Community Benefits Ordinance (CBO). Yet, community benefits are still often hamstrung in cities like Detroit because of limited or last-minute coordination with the rest of the development process.
The following report considers, first, the admissibility of community benefits in the legal context of Michigan. It then explores various Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) across the country - examples are drawn from Milwaukee, Atlanta, and New Rochelle - including their adoption and enforcement mechanisms, in order to propose new approaches to community benefits in Detroit. Our aim is to propose ways to move the community benefits process earlier in the chain of development, so that community members are assured a piece of the economic pie, and developers are assured a building process without unexpected hiccups. The hope is that by institutionalizing the expectation of community benefits through a variety of avenues, a larger swath of developments across the city will be included in the process, rather than only the largest and most expensive.
The report concludes by describing several cross-cutting approaches that are applicable to many different CBA scenarios and can be dovetailed with the potential insertion points found throughout the document. Taken together, these measures can evolve Detroit's burgeoning community benefits movement and ensure an effective way for communities to advocate their preferences and encourage Detroit to be a more prosperous and equitable city in the future.