thinkEAST Report on Tools for Equitable Development

After April’s Living Charrette we’ve been thinking a lot about the future of the thinkEAST site. We are using community feedback to imagine how the physical site might look and also how it might be owned and operated affordably and sustainably. 

Our intern Julia Barnard prepared a report about alternative tools for equitable development and shared the summary below. You can also download the full report here.  We studied community benefit agreements, community development corporations, community development initial public offerings, community land trusts, cooperatives, and equity-based crowdfunding for ideas about how to sustain and develop the community on and around a site.

Please take a look at these approaches to finance and ownership and let us know what you think. We look forward to hearing from you about your ideas regarding the tools we’ve researched (and the tools we haven’t)!


Tools for Equitable Development Summary (download PDF of the full report here)

Community Benefit Agreements are legal contracts between developers and community representatives that lay out benefits the developer will provide to the community in the course of large development projects.

Community Development Corporations are non-profit organizations that exist to strengthen neighborhoods via housing, workforce development, community-building, and economic development programs. They are also important intermediaries for other organizations looking to receive some types of federal funding for development projects.

Community Development Initial Public Offerings are a tool for offering ownership and governance to low-income community members. In a CD-IPO, community members can buy equity stakes at very low prices and enjoy one vote per person (as opposed to votes proportional to equity value).

Community Land Trusts create permanent affordable housing for low-income community members by separating ownership of the land itself (which stays with the land trust organization) and ownership of the structure on the land (which is leased to the user).

Cooperatives are defined by shared ownership, shared governance, and shared financial benefit. Types of cooperatives include consumer co-ops, producer co-ops, worker co-ops, and multi-stakeholder co-ops.

Equity-Based Crowdfunding is an asset-building and asset diversification (and thus, a poverty alleviation) strategy for low-income neighborhoods. This tool, not yet fully approved by the Securities & Exchange Commission, allows people to buy equity stakes at low prices via online brokerage sites. These equity stakes give holders shared ownership, but not necessarily shares in governance.