Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Abstract: Legal Session #1

Title: Community Benefits Agreements (CBA): Opportunity or Trap for Community Groups?

A community benefits agreement, or CBA, is a private contract between a developer and a community coalition that sets forth the benefits that the community will receive from the project. Common benefits include living wages, local hiring and training programs, affordable housing, environmental remediation and funds for community programs. CBAs ensure that development is equitable and benefits all members of the community, eventually contributing to stronger local economies, livable neighborhoods and increased public participation in the planning process.

While CBAs are strongly supported by many stakeholders, they are not always perfect vehicles to promote social justice issues. Practical problems from organizing large and diverse coalitions of community groups to negotiating with legally and politically sophisticated developers can make CBAs unwieldy tools in many cases. Moreover, CBAs have yet to stand the test of judicial review. This session will explore the opportunities and shortcomings of CBAs in more detail, providing examples of successful, and not-so-successful CBAs, and discussing some of the problems that may arise during the community organizing, negotiating and implementation phases. Finally, questions about the enforcement of CBAs and their legal validity will be addressed.

Patty Salkin Developed Session
Associate Dean and Director
Government Law Center of Albany Law School

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