Community Benefits Ordinance and NAC Responsibilities

May 2, 2022

Community Benefit Agreement Ordinance (CBO)

Background - Detroit’s Community Benefit Ordinance is rooted in the North End. This public policy grew from the organizing and advocacy work began in 2010 at the Storehouse of Hope Emergency Food Pantry housed at the historic St Matthew and St Joseph Episcopal Church.  Residents formed the citywide community benefit coalition known as the Equitable Detroit Coalition (EDC) to organize and advocate for a strong CBA policy in Detroit.  In the Spring of 2013 residents and EDC petitioned City Council to pass a CBA ordinance that would ensure that when private developers received public funding, they would negotiate benefits with the community impacted by the development project.  Detroit People’s Platform is one of the founding members of EDC along with 23 other Detroit based organizations.

The movement for fair and equitable development evolved from a local neighborhood based initiative to a citywide campaign to WIN a strong ordinance to ensure fair and equitable development across Detroit neighborhoods. The original ordinance written by community residents was known as Proposal A. However, a competing ordinance known as Proposal B was introduced and backed by corporations, special interest and several city council members. The chart below illustrates the difference between Proposal A and Proposal B put before Detroit voters in the 2016 general election.

Proposal A was narrowly defeated by Proposal B in a hard fought grassroots campaign. Nearly 100, 000 Detroiters turned out to vote in support of Proposal A and the majority of voters in the North End who voted supported Proposal A.

Although, Proposal A was defeated and voters were left with the weaker Proposal B, the organizing and advocacy work launched by North End residents was historic. Detroit became the nation’s first city to adopt a citywide CBA ordinance.

EDC and Detroit People’s Platform have monitored the qualifying CBA projects under the ordinance the past five years and continue the organizing and advocacy for a stronger CBA ordinance.  Recently, EDC and Detroit People’s Platform along with Detroiter residents WON a series of City Council amendments to the current ordinance as recent as November 2021.  This is the legacy you step into as a Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) member - the democratic fight for fairness and community voice in the allocation of our public resources.

The current Community Benefit Ordinance is legal but unjust in the way it concentrates power and decision making in the hands of mostly wealthy, white developers and politicians with little benefit to the average Detroiter.  In the past several years nearly 1 billion dollars in public tax abatement extracted from majority Black Detroit.  Therefore the demand for equitable and fair development in the city is also a racial justice issue that doesn’t get named as such by city officials.  That’s why Equitable Detroit Coalition and the Detroit People’s Platform continue to organize to strengthen the current law.  We will continue to organize to fight for a Community Benefit Agreement ordinance that benefits the average Detroiter.

Role of the Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC)

  • With only two (2) elected community voices represented at the table, you hold a unique seat among the other NAC appointed members. Based on best practices of former NAC as monitored by EDC and DPP we offer the following findings:
  • Understand your power.  Read and understand the ordinance and hold the city representatives and the developers accountable to the Ordinance.
  • Request and review all essential developer documents. Ask critical questions thru the lens of impacted residents.  Engage relevant city departments in the discussion on critical questions like the City Planning Commission for example or Board of Zoning Appeals.
  • Call for transparency from NAC members including any pre – conversations with developers or city personnel about the CBA process or outcomes.
  • Call for transparency from the developer and the city and Detroit Economic Development Corporation on how much public investment will the project receive.  These public benefits may come in the form of tax abatements, public grants, below market rate land sales, etc.
  • Understand the financial impact on the residents of Detroit in terms of how much tax revenue is diverted from the general fund and for how long based on planned tax abatements for the development.  Understand the benefits that will accrue to the developer and their investors.
  • Use available tools to analyze the project including a racial equity and zoning analysis.
  • Review copies of the developers environmental impact analysis as it relates to the impact on nearby residents and neighborhoods, not just the development site.  This is a heavy industrial site with the potential of construction to create unhealthy impacts on nearby residents. Simply discussing the developers construction related impacts is not enough
  • Analyze the potential impact of the housing and retail in the proposed development on nearby rents and home values.
  • Meet independently of the city and developer to establish your independence and opportunity to collaborate as a resident body and learn from experts about the project
  • Establish a routine way to connect with residents in the impact area thru Facebook page, fliers, newsletters; etc, are helpful for getting community concerns and input that inform your deliberations.
  • Review the range, types and dollar values of community benefits negotiated by other NAC in Detroit.
  • Develop your benefit ask according to what will directly benefit impacted residents.