Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

One Year Later, How Is Detroit’s Community Benefits Ordinance Working Out?

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Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

Can CBAs guarantee big development projects benefit everyday people?

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Raquel Castenada-Lopez
Raquel Castenada-Lopez

In November 2016, Detroiters had two ballot measures competing for their vote.

The first was was initiated by a group of community activists. It called for a community benefits ordinance that would require developers seeking tax incentives for projects costing $15 million or more to negotiate community benefits with residents and sign a contract with them. 

The second proposal, Proposal B, put forward by City Councilman Scott Benson, required developers seeking tax incentives for projects costing $75 million or more to meet with a “neighborhood advisory council” prior to receiving approval for development. It does not require developers to sign a contract with residents. 

That second proposal passed and went into effect January 1, 2017. Since then, the community benefits process has been utilized six times. 

WDET’s Shelby Jouppi speaks with City Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-Lopez about the first year under the community benefits ordinance. 

Castañeda-Lopez supported the first proposal, which did not pass. 

While she is glad there is an official policy regarding community benefits and development, making Detroit one of the first cities in the country to have such an ordinance, she says there is still room for improvement. 

She says negotiations have moved quickly — maybe too quickly — and some neighborhoods don’t necessarily have the proper negotiating experience. 

If you don’t have the neighborhood capacity, so to speak, to engage in these negotiation processes…to, kind of, run through a community benefits process is a little bit disingenuous to true community engagement and having community-driven development,” she says.  

Rebecca Karp, an urban planner, also joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to speak from a national perspective about community benefits agreements. 

Karp is the principal at Karp Strategies Urban Planning Advisors and has written extensively about CBAs. 

Looking at CBA negotiations from a bigger perspective, Karp thinks it’s important that everyone is given the same information. 

It would be great if, you know, those developers and community groups all had access to the same information so you could have a good baseline and a shared conversation,” Karp says. 

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation. 

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.


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