Reggio Emilia, Italy

The City of Reggio Emilia, population 173,000, is located in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy about 80 miles southeast of Milan. Like at least nine other Italian cities, Reggio Emilia 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).

Reggio Emilia launched its TDR program in 1994 (Venuti, 2008). Reggio Emilia uses TDR in all areas planned for conversion throughout the entire city. This comprehensive approach is also used in Turin, Casalecchio di Reno, Piacenza, Cesena 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, Reggio Emilia 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, Reggio Emilia 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. Reggio Emilia developed three classes: abandoned areas, converted settlements and green areas (Micelli, 2002).

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

  • Abandoned areas: 0.40 square meters of development per one square meter of land area
  • Converted settlements: 0.25 square meters of development per one square meter of land area
  • Green areas: 0.10 square meters of development per one square meter of land area

Reggio Emilia 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.

Reggio Emilia’s program was upheld by a court in 1999, making it the first affirmative judgment of an equalization plan (Bartolini, 2011)

Bartolini, A. (2011) Equalization in Urban Development Annual Report 2011 Italy. IOS Publicum Network Review.

Micelli, E., and Faggiani, (2001) 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.

Venuti, G. (2008) Town planning equalization. Urbanistica. Number 137. September –October 2008.