Commercial linkage strategies tie new economic development to the construction and maintenance of affordable housing or other community needs. Most linkage programs do this by requiring developers of new commercial properties to pay fees (usually assessed per square foot of development) to support affordable housing. Some programs give developers the option to actually construct the affordable units. In exchange for compliance, developers receive their building permits. Established by legislation or ordinance, linkage strategies are an important vehicle for ensuring that community benefit is derived from commercial development.
In metropolitan areas experiencing growth, commercial development (usually office or retail space) often outpaces affordable housing production. This can create a jobs-housing imbalance, meaning there are not enough places for workers to live in the vicinity of their jobs. A jobs-housing imbalance can drive up prices in the local housing market, forcing some people out. Low-income people and communities of color are often the most acutely affected. A jobs-housing imbalance also leads to long commutes and traffic congestion as workers live farther from jobs, which affects the entire region. Linkage programs seek to correct this imbalance by tying the construction and maintenance of the affordable housing stock to commercial growth.