BOSTON (SHNS) – Massachusetts boards that oversee local land use and construction are typically dominated by white male homeowners, a recent study from Boston University researchers found.
The study analyzed data from zoning boards, planning boards and redevelopment boards, as well as city councils and selectboards, in 22 Bay State cities. Researchers found that homeowners, people over 50 years old and long-term residents were overrepresented on municipal boards and commissions, while women and people of color were significantly underrepresented.
For example, the results show that 31 percent of voters in the Gateway Cities are homeowners or live in owner-occupied homes, but 69 percent of public officials in these cities meet this criteria. In addition, 53 percent of the voters in these communities are people of color, but only 33 percent of public officials are, while women make up 54 percent of voters but only 30 percent of public officials.
Researchers noted similar disparities in terms of who most often participates in public meetings around housing development, according to the report. The study authors advocated for more targeted outreach and engagement in underrepresented populations, including through focus groups, civic lotteries and technological innovations to make local government proceedings more welcoming and less difficult to participate in.