New Policy Briefs on Mayors’ Housing Production Goals & Use of Economic Incentives

The Boston University Initiative on Cities is pleased to release two new policy briefs based on findings from the 2018 Menino Survey of Mayors. These briefs provide additional context and deeper understanding of mayoral perspectives on housing production goals and on the use of economic incentives to attract new businesses.

Mayoral Views on Housing Production: Do Planning Goals Match Reality? evaluates mayoral priorities relative to actual need. Based on our analysis, even the most ambitious mayors are not prioritizing sufficient development necessary to meet the demand for housing and to address the affordability crisis. The authors recommend reforming local zoning codes and reducing regulatory barriers to the construction of multifamily housing to help address this shortfall.

Mayoral Views on Economic Incentives: Valuable Tools or a Bad Use of Resources? explores which types of cities and mayors embrace – or reject – tax concessions and subsidies to attract or retain business. The authors find considerable variation in how individual mayors think about these issues; personal traits of the mayor (e.g., party and time in office) and city level characteristics (e.g., economic performance) do not predict their views on economic incentives. The absence of clear patterns suggests to the authors that the supposedly omnipresent pressure to provide inducements to business investment is not the recurring, vivid presence in the lives of mayors that we might expect.

The Menino Survey of Mayors, supported by Citi Community Development and The Rockefeller Foundation, was created in 2014 by the Initiative on Cities to reveal the priorities, challenges and perspectives of mayors across the country as they seek to build vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive communities. For more information and to view past findings reports, please visit