Cesena, Italy

The City of Cesena, population 97,000, is located in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy about nine miles west of the Adriatic Sea and about 60 miles east of Florence. Like at least nine other Italian cities, Cesena uses a form of TDR as a way of equitably distributing development potential and thereby mitigating some of the land value inequities created by tradition zoning. As a second but important benefit, these programs allow governments to acquire land for public infrastructure at little or no cost (Micelli and Faggiani, 2001).

Cesena launched its TDR program in 1998 as part of a new Structural Plan. Cesena uses TDR in all areas planned for conversion throughout the entire city. This comprehensive approach is also used in Turin, Reggio, Emilia, Piacenza, Casalecchio di Reno and Parma. In the alternative approach (used in Ravenna, Padua and Venice), TDR is only used for selected parts of the conversion area (Micelli, 2002).

As in many Italian cities, Cesena applies a uniform level of development potential to all the land within a comparable classification of land designated for conversion. However, within each classification, the owners of land planned for public infrastructure (sending sites) cannot use that development potential on site but can sell it to the owners of land identified for private development (receiving sites). The owners of the receiving sites can build at or below the baseline density or can exceed baseline by acquiring TDRs from the owners of the sending sites. This approach is intended to equalize the monetary effects of zoning and maintain higher property value for the sending sites than would occur if the city gave little or no development potential to these sites and then acquired them through condemnation at a reduced price. After the sending site owners have sold their TDRs, they give the property to the jurisdiction or sell it to the jurisdiction at an agricultural land value, thus delivering the programs’ other major benefit of allowing the jurisdiction to cheaply acquire land for public facilities.

As with other Italian TDR programs, Cesena first determined the appropriate number of land classifications to use. Some cities decide that all of their conversion land is essentially homogenous and they create just one large category. Other cities find the conversion land to be sufficiently different to warrant as many six classifications. The creation of these land classes requires what appears to be a balancing of economic, legal and other criteria that identify categories of land that ought to have comparable value based on concepts of fairness and perhaps common sense. Cesena developed five classes based on three criteria: the use allowed by the prior plan; the actual use of a property at the time the 1998 Structural Plan was in development; and the use being proposed in the new Structural Plan. Cesena’s five classes are: high environmental value areas; areas first proposed for urban development in the 1998 Structural Plan; development areas designated for urbanization in the prior plan; areas proposed for redevelopment; and areas proposed for high-density redevelopment.

All land within each of Cesena’s five classes has the following baseline development potential regardless of whether or not it is planned for public facilities and therefore a sending site.

  • High environmental value areas: 0.03 square meters of development per one square meter of land area
  • New urbanization areas: 0.08 square meters of development per one square meter of land area
  • Development areas designated for urbanization in prior plan: 0.12 square meters of development per one square meter of land area
  • Redevelopment areas: 0.4 square meters of development per one square meter of land area
  • High-density redevelopment areas: 0.6 square meters of development per one square meter of land area

Cesena also uses design objectives to divide each class into geographic areas with as few property owners as possible. Transfers are limited to the sending and receiving site owners within these geographic areas. Although the transfers are private sector transactions, the city facilitates and provides information.

Micelli, E., and Faggiani, A. New Tools for Land Policy in Italy. Paper presented at the 8th European Real Estate Society Conference. Alicante 26-29 June 2001.

Micelli, E. (2002) Development rights markets to manage urban plans in Italy. Urban Studies. Vol. 39. No. 1.