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TDC101 TDC 101 - The Basics

Brief History of the Tool

Transfer of Development Rights programs (as they are known in the United States) were first established in the U.S. in the mid- to late-1960’s. Initially, programs were established for the preservation of historical resources (heritage buildings, historic landscapes, etc.). By the 1970’s, a number of programs had been established whose focus lay in other land use values as well. American programs have now been established with the aim of protecting environmentally significant areas, agricultural lands, recreation opportunities, even marble and minerals extraction potential. Implementation of the tool has become less an issue of the type of resource being protected, and more one of the process of protection.

Like related tools and programs (conservation easements, Purchase of Development Rights), Transfer of Development Rights arose based on the ability to sever the development potential from the other interests in a piece of land, becoming a marketable commodity. The underlying assumption is that the threat to the valued landscape can be significantly mitigated if the primary pressure (intensive development) is re- directed.

By 2009, there were nearly 200 programs operating in the United States, which had conserved over 350,000 acres of valued landscapes (see the articles and publications by Rick Pruetz in the Resources). A minority of programs were established with initial goals that were non- preservation (land development, redevelopment and rehabilitation of low-income housing), but the vast majority sought some type of land preservation (Kaplowitz et al, in press).

Canada has been slow to adopt the tool for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is a lack of awareness. The most firmly established and comprehensive program in Canada is in Vancouver, BC, a program focused on protection of urban historical resources. Currently, the most activity (discussion, community demand, research, pilot projects, and provincial government legislation) is in Alberta, though only one program has yet been established (in the Municipal District of Bighorn).

In October 2009, after much pioneering effort by key individual municipalities and by both the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, the Transfer of Development Credits (TDC) tool was officially enabled legislatively through the Alberta Land Stewardship Act. Several municipalities have been actively exploring the concept, some taking explicit steps to establish TDC programs.


Miistakis Reports

Government of Alberta


Web Resources



What is a TDC Program?

The Why, What, How and Who's of TDCs

Support Organizations and Consultants

Did we miss an important resource? If you know of a publication, web site, or other resource that should be here, please contact us.

Also, check out our full list of TDC Resources.