Strategies to Minimize Displacement: Community Benefits Agreements


Brownfields—or properties with environmental contamination or potentially contaminated land—are disproportionately located in or near communities of color and low-income communities. Residents near these properties may face heightened health hazards and economic disinvestment until the site undergoes assessment and cleanup, which can be a costly and lengthy process.

Safely reusing a brownfield site is an opportunity to improve community health and bring in new amenities. However, brownfield redevelopment can also exacerbate affordability and displacement concerns. As costs rise and it becomes more expensive to live in a community, lower income residents and small businesses are often displaced. Strong, early community engagement in the brownfields reuse process presents an opportunity for the community to have a meaningful role and input on how to minimize displacement through the cleanup and reuse process. Community leaders, stakeholders, and practitioners can be proactive and put strategies in place to minimize the risk of displacement. These strategies take time, resources, and political will to implement, and they are most effective if put into place before displacement is already occurring.

Community engagement meetings are crucial to the community benefits agreement process, which requires the inputs and perspectives of different resident groups and community stakeholders. Image depicts community members gathering for a discussion and meeting in the Greater Baltimore, Maryland area.

Tool: Community benefits agreement

A community benefits agreement (CBA) is a legally binding contract between residents and a private development entity in the context of a development project in the community. The CBA incorporates the residents’ needs and desires within the planning process and addresses how the community will benefit post- development. The community is often represented by legal professionals who negotiate with the development entity in pursuit of their goals and expectations. Non-profit or community-based organizations are also sometimes included to act as a support system and capacity-builder for residents.

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