Who gets heard on housing?

Public engagement participants may skew urban growth and development.

Public officials tend to hear overwhelmingly from opponents of new housing. At least that’s what a new Boston University study uncovered. In an article published on the Route Fifty website, Bill Lucia reports on research showing that several other factors could also skew decisions by public officials. For example, those who show up to speak at public planning meetings also happen to be predominantly male, older and homeowners. 

 “It’s problematic in part because planning and zoning board officials are listening to these unrepresentative voices and being influenced by them.” 

- Katherine Levine Einstein, Boston University professor and research author

Where voters in Massachusetts indicated support for affordable housing in elections, the opposition to new housing was still strong in public feedback meetings. We’ve all heard the phrase about the squeaky wheel.
Interestingly, the article explains, “While older and male community members were more likely to make comments, age and gender were not good predictors of whether a person would be for or against new development.” However, the study also indicates that those of any age, race and gender who support more housing are severely underrepresented. They tend not to show up to speak at public planning board meetings.

Instead, show their support in the way they vote. 

There’s much more to learn in the full copy of the study, “Who Participates in Local Government”.

All of us need to show up to be heard, whether you are pro or con regarding a particular development. See “10 ways to have your say” to see how you can join the conversation in Calgary. It’s your city.

Published
August 28th, 2018


Every perspective on housing and housing affordability is needed for city officials to make the decisions voters want.


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