A Community Benefits Agreement for LeBreton Flats

By Roger Peters

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is busy with public consultations on an updated master concept plan for the development of LeBreton Flats. The LeBreton Flats Community Benefits Coalition believes that as well as being an exciting new national asset, LeBreton should become a vibrant neighbourhood integrated with surrounding communities and generating wealth in the broadest, most socially beneficial way possible.

Imagine a LeBreton Flats where people from all walks of life can live and work affordably and comfortably with access to a complete range of services. Imagine a Lebreton Flats that is a model for sustainable building and social innovation. Imagine a development plan that procures from local enterprises and provides local employment, training and apprenticeship opportunities.

The goal of the LeBreton Flats Community Benefits Coalition is to secure a community benefits agreement that specifies a range of specific features to be included in the LeBreton redevelopment and the benefits it would provide to the community during construction. This agreement would become an integral part of the NCC’s master plan and of tender documents for future land parcelling. Community benefits agreements are legally-binding contractual agreements and, hence, enforceable.

The LeBreton Flats Community Benefits Coalition is comprised of 20 Ottawa-based organizations, and the list is growing. These organizations advocate for affordable housing, decent work and training, local and social procurement, sustainable energy, co-operative enterprises, the needs of Ottawa indigenous citizens and health services. The coalition also includes several community associations.

The use of community benefits agreements to build community wealth from major developments is growing rapidly in North America and overseas as communities now realize that the old playbooks used by institutions and developers often leave them little of long-term value. The agreements can ensure that development actually produces social, economic and environmental benefits. They enable the community to play a meaningful role in development planning and execution and they are a defence against weak governance and enforcement.

In advocating for such an agreement for LeBreton Flats, a broad-based coalition addresses the needs of community sectors and voices not normally considered and they avoid the fragmentation that occurs when community sectors are forced to advocate for their own interests as individual silos. Here in Ottawa, a community benefits agreement is being negotiated for the Herongate housing development. Agreements are in place or being negotiated in Toronto to govern Metrolinx transit projects, the former Woodbine Raceway lands and in the Parkdale neighbourhood. An important precedent is the community benefits plan in place for the Windsor-to-Detroit Gordie Howe bridge development which is under federal jurisdiction.

LeBreton Flats is an opportunity for the NCC to show leadership and embrace a community benefits agreement as the framework for the development, much like the federal government has done on the Gordie Howe bridge. Over the next few months, the LeBreton Flats Community Benefits Coalition will be working hard to establish community-benefit targets for an agreement and also to raise awareness of how it would benefit the city.

Roger Peters is a resident of Old Ottawa South and co-founder of the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-operative. For more information on the Coalition and Community Benefits Agreements, visit www.CBAforLeBreton.ca or contact George Brown, George@integralnorth.ca.

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