How Cities Are Responding to Rising Commercial Rents

A new report examines how high rents are shuttering businesses and stunting entrepreneurship, exploring six strategies used by cities to create an affordable built environment, where local businesses can thrive.

2 minute read

April 22, 2016, 8:00 AM PDT

By olivia-ilsr


The cost of leasing commercial space is soaring in many U.S. cities, and posing an increasing threat to the future of independent businesses, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance finds in a report released Wednesday. In cities as diverse as Oakland and Nashville, Milwaukee and Portland, Maine, retail rents have shot up by double-digit percentages over the last year alone. As the cost of space rises, urban neighborhoods that have long provided the kind of dense and varied environment in which entrepreneurs thrive are becoming increasingly inhospitable to them. Local businesses that serve the everyday needs of their communities are being forced out and replaced by national chains that can negotiate better rents or afford to subsidize a high-visibility location.

ILSR's new report examines what's causing commercial rents to skyrocket, and explores six broad policy strategies that elected officials and community leaders are proposing to address it. There's a public interest in the commercial side of the built environment, the report argues, and smart city policy has an important role to play in creating an urban landscape in which locally owned businesses can thrive.

Among the examples in the report are Salt Lake City’s investigation into creating a “Buy Your Building” program to help local businesses purchase their property, New York City’s efforts to give small business owners certain rights when it comes time to renew their leases, San Francisco’s ordinance encouraging commercial diversity, and Seattle’s plans to lease city-owned property to local businesses with favorable terms.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 in Institute for Local Self-Reliance

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