Middle Neighborhoods

Why Middle Neighborhoods Matter

Nearly half of all urban residents currently live in a middle neighborhood. These are places that are neither hot market areas with rapidly rising prices, nor distressed areas with falling prices and rising vacancies. Rather, these are the affordable neighborhoods in their jurisdictions. On the edge between growth and decline, middle neighborhoods are generally affordable, stable, and safe; and they historically have played an important role building opportunity and prosperity.

Just as rising prices from gentrification can displace long-term residents, a failing middle neighborhood can have devastating trigger effects on its residents and its municipality. When neighborhoods decline, large numbers of modest-income households, many of which are of people of color, lose wealth due to declining home values. Failing middle neighborhoods can jeopardize municipal and school budgets, and increase appeals for federal and state support because declining home values mean a loss of property tax revenues.

Despite their importance, middle neighborhoods are the subject of very few strategic interventions and policies.

Establishing the Foundation for a National Middle Neighborhoods Movement

Following the publication of On the Edge: America's Middle Neighborhoods, The American Assembly organized convenings in cities across the US to facilitate author presentations aimed at informing audiences and determining the potential scope for future work. Convenings have been paired with strategic meetings among elected officials, urban policy experts, community development practitioners, and researchers. These outreach activities were organized to:

  • Help practitioners, policymakers, and advocates active in the fields of city governance, city planning and community development understand that improving neighborhoods is a distinct area of practice, research, and investment.
  • Build public awareness and understanding, including bipartisan support, around the important role middle neighborhoods play in stabilizing communities and the urban economy.
  • Create long-term initiatives and partnerships to advance the field of middle neighborhood improvement.

Action Agenda

The "Middle Neighborhoods: Action Agenda for a National Movement" meeting was held in Baltimore at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond between November 15-16, 2017, with support from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Healthy Neighborhoods Inc., a Baltimore-based community development organization leading the city’s middle neighborhood stabilization efforts. Experts from varying disciplines and backgrounds, each familiar with the context of middle neighborhoods in cities across the US, divided themselves into three working groups to advance discussions in policy, practice, and research. Among the participants were the Mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh; Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker; and two Congressional members, Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Dwight Evans (D-PA).

For a summary of conclusions, including highlights from each working group, and next steps, view the summary report here.

Learn more at middleneighborhoods.org.

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The American Assembly
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 456 New York, NY 10115
212-870-3500 - americanassembly@columbia.edu