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Based on the latest Menino Survey of Mayors, it’s “not just a coastal problem, but a problem everywhere.”
Housing affordability and access is a top concern for mayors throughout the U.S., according to newly published survey results.
Boston University researchers on Tuesday released the fourth annual Menino Survey of Mayors, which is based on interviews with 115 of the city executives. About half of the mayors said housing costs were one of the top three reasons people move away from their cities.
And only 13 percent of mayors said the housing stock in their city matched residents’ needs “very” or “extremely” well.
“This was a nationwide problem,” Max Palmer, an assistant professor of political science at Boston University and one of the study’s authors, said by phone, referring to the housing issues the survey highlighted.
“Not just a coastal problem,” he added. “But a problem everywhere, across wealthy cities, poorer cities, cities with Democratic mayors, cities with Republican mayors.”
The survey is named for Tom Menino, Boston's longest serving mayor, who held office for five consecutive terms through 2013.
Looking beyond housing, there are other notable results from the survey.
For instance, 84 percent of mayors attributed increases in the earth’s temperature to human activities, rather than natural changes, and 68 percent agreed cities should take a strong role in addressing climate change, even if it means losing city revenues, or taking on new costs.
On the fiscal front, mayors regularly indicated that a lack of state and federal dollars is the main obstacle to expanding housing access. And they were confident, on average, that they could meet only about half of their city’s infrastructure needs in the next five years.
Mayors identified state dollars as the option they were most likely to turn to when backfilling lost federal funding for education and transportation. But they pointed to local taxes when it comes to making up for slack in federal contributions for water infrastructure.
Thirty-five percent of those surveyed suggested public-private partnership deals could help to make up for federal budget reductions that affect affordable housing.
Palmer said this year's study was the first time researchers devoted a sizable chunk of the survey questions to housing topics.
He also noted that the Menino Survey is the only nationally representative, scientific study of its kind. Interviews took place last summer and were mostly conducted in person or by phone. The average city size for responding mayors was about 233,000.
“We believe that the results are representative of all big cities in the United States and give us a really good and clear picture of the issues that mayors think they face,” Palmer added.
A full copy of the survey can be found here.
Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.
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