Why Participation? Institutional Choice in Urban Politics
46 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021 Last revised: 21 Aug 2023
Date Written: August 19, 2023
Institutions for resident participation are common in land use policymaking, yet they are often associated with stark inequalities. We present a formal model to investigate the relationship between participation and inequality in land use decisions. In the model, residents of two districts compete to oppose a locally costly (but socially beneficial) proposal. Participatory institutions allow residents to send a costly signal of their preferences to a politician. The politician only establishes participatory institutions when they are moderately biased toward one district. When extremely biased, the politician unilaterally benefits one district at the other’s expense; when sufficiently egalitarian, the politician allows each district to approve or veto projects themselves. We relate these results to the changing structure of urban politics in the wake of the Great Society. Amid debates over preemption and exclusionary zoning, this argument suggests an alternative approach to facilitate new housing development by deepening local democracy.
Keywords: formal model, land use policy, local democracy, nimbyism, participation, Great Society
JEL Classification: H11, H77, R31, R52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation