According to a new report by two Boston University researchers and released by the Boston Foundation on Wednesday, the approval process for new housing developments in Massachusetts communities is “tilted toward an older white population with the greatest interest in hindering new developments”.

Katherine Levine Einstein and Maxwell Palmer compared the demographics of public servants in more than 20 communities with the demographics of residents in those communities and found that public servants “were significantly older, whiter, more male, and more likely to be residents.” long-standing than voters in their communities. Women and people of color are significantly underrepresented, the researchers found.

The communities examined in the research were: Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Springfield and Worcester, as well as Amherst, Arlington, Ashby, Barnstable, Boston, Cambridge, Framingham, Lexington , Newton, Plymouth and Quincy. The report noted efforts in Haverhill and Newton to ensure more inclusive planning and housing efforts.

“This report both vividly illustrates how the housing process in cities and towns favors established residents with the time and means to be able to keep up with city council schedules and attend in-person meetings,” said Mr. Lee Pelton, president and CEO of the Boston Foundation. , said in a statement. “As a result, the bias towards older, existing homeowners effectively prevents a wide range of people from accessing housing in the communities of their choice and perpetuates housing segregation.”

While the state regulates housing, zoning rules are set at the local level in Massachusetts, a system that gives each of the 351 cities and towns, and their local councils, an outsized voice in housing development.

The researchers said they found a lack of diversity on housing-related councils and commissions, “representation inequalities” in political participation and public meetings, processes that favor neighborhood opponents of new developments over beneficiaries, meeting and survey formats that don’t tap into the broadest range of voices; and a lack of investment in ensuring polls reflect the full range of community input.

Public meetings “disproportionately attract neighbors opposed to new housing and greater density,” according to the report, “Representation in the Housing Process: Best Practices for Improving Racial Equity.” Meetings are unlikely to include the voices of the people and families most likely to benefit from new housing, the report said, in part because “many of these people don’t have time to participate.” Or, they may not trust the government to address their concerns.

The foundation co-sponsored the report with the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, the Boston Medical Center and others as part of the Massachusetts Coalition for Racial Equity in Housing.