A new study by a team of researchers at Boston University uses data from public meeting minutes to explore whether or not those who participate in public comment periods reflect the larger community’s views when it comes to housing.
There’s a lot of data here so you may prefer to start by reading this article about the research. And here’s an excerpt:
Researchers at Boston University found that people who turn out to speak at planning and zoning board meetings tend to overwhelmingly oppose new housing development. Compared to other residents, these meeting goers are also more likely to be older, male, 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, a Boston University professor and one of the paper’s authors, said by phone on Tuesday.
“People who are actually showing up,” she added, “are biased in a variety of troubling ways.”
The researchers say their study, which looked at part of Massachusetts, is the first to document inequalities in who shows up and makes comments at local public meetings about housing.
It found that opposition to new housing construction was strong among meeting participants even in places that showed support for affordable housing measures when voting in elections.