de Benedictis Kessner, Justin, Daniel Jones, and Christopher Warshaw. “How Partisanship in Cities Influences Housing Policy.” HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP21-035, August 2022.

What’s the issue?

Cities in the United States are facing a housing affordability crisis. Prices have increased and there are fewer new homes and lower-rent rental homes on the market, making inequality worse. Democrats have received blame for unaffordable urban housing in the media, while figures like Trump have argued that Republicans are the champions of the suburbs and single-family zoning. At the same time, Democratic state and local governments are passing policies making building housing easier.

What does the research say?

Mayors’ political affiliations may affect housing policy. Research by Assistant Professor of Public Policy Justin de Benedictis-Kessner and coauthors found that:

  • Democratic mayors are more likely to increase multifamily housing in their cities.
  • This increase often takes the form of more units in buildings rather than the creation of more buildings.
  • However, in places where city councils can veto new developments, mayors’ political affiliation does not make a difference. Electing a Democrat as mayor has no effect on housing in cities where councils have this power.


Get smart & reliable public policy insights right in your inbox.