White, older men who own homes will make up the majority of the audience at any public meeting on housing or zoning. Of that group, more than 60 percent already have their positions set before the meeting even begins–and they are against any proposal being discussed because, as they will explain, of traffic concerns.
Those are the findings of a study conducted by researchers in the Boston area that tracked participants in nearly 3,000 public meetings on housing and zoning proposals between 2015 and 2017, as reported by City Lab.
The average participant lived in their area for about 17 years and would mention their professional background—often in fields like law, architecture or engineering, and present themselves as informed parties. The highest ranking concerns besides traffic included environment, flooding and safety.
Almost 60 percent of the participants weren’t affiliated with a specific party, but for the 40 percent who were, Democrats made up the majority of the crowd while registered Republicans were the smallest group at just over 10 percent. Democrats were more likely to support new development than Republicans, however.
Researchers concluded that “the incentives to show up and oppose new housing are far stronger” than those for supporting it.
In a second study, reported by Next City, that examined racial disparities among the participants of public meetings, researchers found that about 80 percent of participants were white. They noted that “these racial disparities are far worse than they are in other forms of political participation.” [City Lab]—Erin Hudson