New opportunities in Oklahoma City: How inclusive urban projects are gaining momentum

About the Affordable Cities blog series and #BetterUrbanHousing
People living in cities across the world are facing the effects of the housing affordability and cost-of-living crisis. OECD Champion Mayors recently endorsed the new “OECD Brussels Blueprint for Affordable cities and Housing for All” at the Brussels Urban Summit where they shared innovative solutions to tackle these challenges and drive more inclusive economic growth. They continue to drive efforts that shape a more affordable, equitable and resilient urban future.

I have served as Mayor of Oklahoma City since 2018, and I am proud to be an OECD Champion Mayor for Inclusive Growth.

A place people want to live

Oklahoma City is America’s 20th largest city and 6th fastest-growing top 20 city. It has not always been that way. In 1980, OKC (as we often call it) was the nation’s 37th largest city. Then, in 1993, after years of challenges, we finally began investing in improving our quality-of-life, which sparked tremendous growth. Since 1993, we have added 250,000 residents, bringing our city’s population in 2023 to just under 700,000. Now, more than ever, people want to live in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City is a growing city

The investments we began in 1993 are known locally as MAPS, which stands for Metropolitan Area Projects. In that year, our city’s voters first approved MAPS, which committed to build nine large projects through funding from a temporary sales tax which would apply a one-percent charge on all purchases for five years. MAPS was so well-received that more projects were approved in 2001 and 2009.

A new MAP to guide us

After I took office in 2018, it was time to present another MAPS proposal to the voters of OKC. Being the fourth iteration of MAPS, this initiative was to be known as MAPS 4. Previous MAPS initiatives had largely focussed on downtown and on entertainment or economic development projects. These projects were desperately needed, but many were perceived to directly benefit only people at higher socioeconomic levels. In developing the proposal for MAPS 4 in 2018-19, it was important to me that we develop an inclusive process, one that would ultimately yield inclusive results and inclusive growth.

For several months, we gathered ideas through all methods at our disposal, and then we invited 16 projects to present their visions publicly to myself and the City Council. Those meetings lasted for a total of 25 hours and all residents who wished to speak could do so for three minutes each. We had hundreds of speakers. Normally, if you have that much energy at City Hall, it is because people are upset. But this time, they were optimistic and excited, and it was inspiring to hear their visions for our city’s future.

An inclusive package

That inclusive process yielded an inclusive package. I ultimately proposed to the public a $1.1 billion initiative funding 16 transformational projects. Uniquely in the history of MAPS, these projects would be constructed all over Oklahoma City (not just downtown) and would bring direct benefit to residents at every socioeconomic level. 

The projects would include:

  • $154 million for parks
  • $118 million for youth centers
  • $45 million for mental health and addiction centers
  • $42 million for a center providing services to victims of domestic violence
  • $97 million for public transit
  • $56 million for truly affordable housing to address homelessness
  • $19 million for a center to help divert accused criminals away from jail and towards productive lives
  • $27 million for a museum to tell our city’s civil rights story

These were investments unlike previous MAPS initiatives, but they reflected the needs of our city as our residents articulated them in 2019. When election day arrived in December of that year, the initiative received 72 percent support, by far the highest total ever received for MAPS.

Today, the work continues to implement the projects. It will ultimately take more than a decade to raise the funds and deliver the projects. But we have every reason to believe that these investments will help continue our city’s remarkable renaissance and ensure that it reaches all people in every corner of our city.

For more information about MAPS 4, visit

About the OECD Champion Mayors Initiative
Created in 2016, the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative is a global coalition of mayors who meet on a regular basis to share their experience in the pursuit of inclusive growth in cities. Since its inception, over 100 different mayors from around the world have joined the Initiative, contributing their voice to the global debate, and making major strides in their cities toward youth empowerment, sustainable climate policy and support for SMEs. The Champion Mayors will meet at the Brussels Urban Summit on 13 June to drive change on improving housing affordability and cost of living for residents in their cities.

Mayor of Oklahoma City | + posts

Mayor David Holt became Oklahoma City’s 36th mayor in 2018. He was elected in 2018 with 78.5 percent of the vote and re-elected in 2022 with more votes than any candidate for Mayor since 1959. A member of the Osage Nation, Holt is the first Native American mayor of Oklahoma City.  At the time he took office, Holt was the youngest mayor of Oklahoma City since 1923. Mayor Holt is an elected member of leadership for both the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.  He received his B.A. from George Washington University and his law degree from Oklahoma City University.