Community Benefit Ordinance
I am committed to exploring a CBO thoroughly and strongly believe we need broad community input on this issue. There are significant inequities in our community in economics, education, and employment and a CBO could be a tool to address them.
The idea behind a CBO is that if the city is giving some kind of tax abatement or credit to a individual developer or company, they should give something back to the community. Consistently-raised ideas of benefits for our community from a CBO include living wage and local hiring requirements, affordable housing components, sustainability requirements and others.
CBOs are not only extremely rare, they are essentially brand new territory in municipal law. Detroit has had a recent and highly controversial process to enact their new CBO and that is one of the few examples out there. People often conflate CBAs (individual agreements) and CBOs (broader ordinances designed to provide structure so that CBAs can be created more easily), adding to the confusion.
Detroit is not a robust comparison to Ypsilanti on this issue for several reasons. First of all, Detroit has many properties that might fall under a CBO, Ypsilanti has just a few. We are obviously of different sizes. Our economies are very different. That said, we are both in Michigan and are rust belt cities dealing with economic and infrastructure issues from the loss of manufacturing industries, lack of State revenue sharing, and .
In Ypsilanti, there are 2 processes being pursued related to the CBO.
1. City Council representatives have been taking in feedback from community members, examining past development processes, and working with our lawyers to write an legally-binding ordinance
2. Rising for Economic Development Ypsilanti (REDY) has held several meetings to come up with lists of needs and ideas for this ordinance; REDY is a newly formed volunteer community group
There are some potential dangers in enacting a CBO:
1. It could hinder development that is badly needed in our community. See my Water Street statement for more on that need. Developers could see it as a stumbling block and elect to work with other communities, thereby giving NO benefit to our community AND keeping us from developing properties.
2. It could cause a rise in housing costs. By reducing the possible tax savings a developer has planned on to make a project work, we would essentially be increasing their costs. Developers could simply pass those costs on to their buyers or renters, thus worsening one of the very problems we hoped to alleviate.
3. Since the development opportunities beyond Water Street itself are relatively limited in our 2mi x 2mi city, a CBO can only a small piece of the puzzle for increasing equity in Ypsilanti.