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

The Pros and Cons of Gentrification

In our last post, we provided a definition for gentrification. What are its impacts?
“The hipster-hating mob ignores evidence that gentrification helps eradicate gang violence, strengthens the local economy, and encourages diversity in neighborhoods separated by racial lines. These positives far outweigh the only logical advantage to opposing progress: cheaper rents and Spanish colonial architecture that will crumble like Jenga pieces in the next big earthquake,” according to an opinion article by Art Tavana in LA Weekly (“Just Say Yes to Gentrification,” January 2015.)

However, Isaac Simpson, in the companion article, “Gentrification Is a Form of Oppression,” points out that gentrification can also lead to displacement, eviction, forced homelessness, police violence, and destroyed communities. He adds that though it may be done with good intentions, the result can be devastating to the residents who are pushed out of the path of development. Gentrification can also cause clashes between classes instead of bringing people together as a community.

While gentrification can benefit an area by decreasing crime, improving the economy, and increasing property values and taxes, it can have the negative consequences of pricing out former residents, changing the culture of the community, and causing resentment. Are the benefits and costs unevenly distributed? If so, are there tools available to mitigate this phenomenon? We will explore this question in our next post.

Written by Brett Poirier, a Research Assistant at RSG