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TDC101 TDC 101 - The Basics

Why Communities Turn To TDC Programs

It is important to note that Transfer of Development Credits (TDC) programs are community-based tools. Though there are regulatory, market, and industry facets, they are primarily administered at the local government level, and are first and foremost a community-based planning tool. For that reason, it is helpful to understand some of the reasons why so may American communities have been turning to the TDC tool.

Pressure for conversion – TDC programs are explicitly designed to assist regions that are experiencing pressure to convert valued landscapes into other land uses. The tool essentially harnesses the power of the increased development and directs it toward matched conservation. Therefore communities who have seen the negative effects of high development pressures are drawn to a tool intended specifically for their circumstances.

Enduring solutions – It is one thing to talk about accountability to future generations, and entirely another to act effectively on their behalf. Many landscape conservation solutions, both private and public, are viewed by communities as being temporary, or subject to the whim of local politics and planning. The inclusion of a device to ensure conservation values are protected beyond the next Council, development proposal, or business plan gives community members a sense of comfort that the framework to conserve their valued landscapes will endure.

Pushing past zoning – Zoning is a critical tool, and one that TDCs are very dependent on. However, communities are often frustrated by the inability of zoning systems alone to conserve valued landscapes, despite supportive policy direction that may exist in the statutory plans. The focus on development, careless re-zoning, regulatory limitations and the command- and-control nature can work against community-based efforts to articulate and implement the conservation component of their community vision.

Equitability – When a community chooses to conserve valued landscapes, there is often a sense that someone has suffered individually, bearing a disproportionate portion of the burden on behalf of society. Zoning creates ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in terms of potential for economic gain. With the use of the TDC tool there is an economic incentive to conserve (payment for TDC credits), and an economic incentive to develop (increased or ‘bonused’ development density) giving community members a sense that opportunities are equitable for all landowners.

Cost-effectiveness – After communities have identified the landscapes that they consider to be valuable in the current state, and determined they would like to retain them that way, the challenge arises in how to fund the tools and approaches the community has available. More traditional approaches, such as buying land, buying development rights, expropriating (perhaps with compensation) are all viable tools and potentially important parts of a diverse strategy, but they are extremely expensive. What draws communities to the TDC tool is the ability to see conserving landowners and developing landowners receive financial gain through a means other than the public purse. In TDC programs, the developer is compensated by the increased value of the developable land, the conserving landowner is compensated by the developer, and cost is borne in a dispersed way by the individual property buyers.

Local, tailored solutions – Every community is unique, as are the valued landscapes and the community values. The ability to tailor a conservation program specifically to the needs and opportunities within a community increases the applicability, chances for success, and personal and community buy-in to the program.


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

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Also, check out our full list of TDC Resources.