Middle Neighborhoods

“Building Advocacy for Middle Neighborhoods” is the second middle neighborhoods national meeting in Cleveland, OH on November 13th-14th, 2018. This working group meeting is part of a larger middle neighborhoods movement aimed to build public awareness and understanding, including bipartisan support, around the importance of middle neighborhoods in stabilizing communities and the urban economy.

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

In 2015, The American Assembly and the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank initiated an investigation of middle neighborhoods, to raise awareness and increase understanding of these neighborhoods. Some findings of their research efforts concluded that:

  • Little is being done to fortify the places where the majority of working and middle class families live and work—and an ounce of prevention is far less expensive than the pound of remediation needed once a neighborhood has declined.
  • In some cities, middle neighborhoods are home to more than half of its total population, representing a significant portion of the local tax base.
  • A large percentage of people of color live in middle neighborhoods. Because homeownership has long been a primary driver of intergenerational wealth in the U.S., eliminating disparities in homeownership is one of the most powerful ways to narrow the wealth divide and its disproportionate impacts on African American families.

Around the nation, policymakers, community leaders, and researchers are mobilizing a groundswell of support to reverse this trend of the disappearance of middle neighborhoods. Early results thus far are promising. Owing to the efforts of growing community of practice, there has been substantial progress documenting and sharing strategic interventions that stabilize and strengthen middle neighborhoods. Current efforts include determining next steps to broaden and diversify a national movement.

The working group meeting,“Building Advocacy for Middle Neighborhoods,” is one such effort working to advance the field of middle neighborhoods improvement and stabilization. It will bring together approximately one hundred and fifty participants who will gather over a day and a half at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland with support from local organizations including Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and The American Assembly, along with the sponsorship of the George Gund Foundation. It builds from several years of outreach activities 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.

This year's working group meeting is a continuation of the first national meeting held in Baltimore, MD at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, where leading authorities and local advocates convened to understand middle neighborhoods. The meeting and a subsequent report, the Middle Neighborhoods Action Agenda, were formed out of the earlier publication of On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods (2016), an authoritative book combing research, case studies, and essays edited by Paul C. Brophy and published by The American Assembly and The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Learn more about our “Building Advocacy for Middle Neighborhoods” meeting in Cleveland, OH.





WHYY: "Philly developers say numbers don’t ‘pencil’ out on city’s latest affordable housing scheme," by Jake Blumgart (September 26th, 2018)

The Philadelphia Tribune: "Philadelphia anti-blight legislation back in action," by Jake Blumgart (September 26th, 2018)

KCCI Des Moines TV: "City's plan to battle blight leaves some neighborhoods out," by Chris Gothner (September 24th, 2018)

Next City: "Making the Case for America's Middle Neighborhoods," by Kelly Regan and Stephanie Sung, with research by Brianna Williams (September 24th, 2018)

Des Moines Register: "Des Moines' $4.5 million revitalization program limited to 4 neighborhoods," by Austin Cannon (September 22nd, 2018)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: "The hidden costs of foreclosure: Stabilizing low-income Philadelphia neighborhoods helps us all," by Elyse Cherry (July 9th, 2018)

The Times-Picayune: "Has urban renewal come at the cost of suburban decline?," by Kevin Litten (June 8th, 2018)

Governing: "The Importance (and Neglect) of America’s ‘Middle Neighborhoods,’" by Alan Greenblatt (June 1st, 2018)

The Philadelphia Tribune: "Dwight Evans seeks second term in Congress," by Michael D’Onofrio (April 27th, 2018)

The Philadelphia Tribune: "McClinton wants gun violence declared a public health crisis," by Stacy Brown (April 25th, 2018)

Forbes: “Saying Housing Drives Income Inequality Misses Some Big Points,” by Erik Sherman (April 15th, 2018)

CBS Chicago: “Community Leaders Adopt a Middle Neighborhood Strategy for Chicago: Making Chatham A Shopping Destination,” by Chatham, Local TV, Roseanne Tellez (January 31st, 2018)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: “New Philadelphia loan program offers hope to residents with homes in disrepair,” by Caitlin McCabe (January 18th, 2018)

City Journal: "The Lifeblood of Cities: 'Middle' neighborhoods—neither affluent nor poor—remain crucial to urban success," by Aaron Renn (January 9th, 2018)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Revitalizing our 'middle neighborhoods': One bold idea," by Dwight Evans & Ken Weinstein (December 3rd, 2017)

Huffington Post: "Across The Country, Some Neighborhoods Are Thriving And Some Struggling, But What About The Ones That Fall Somewhere In The Middle?" by Rep. Dwight Evans and Paul C. Brophy (July 27th, 2017)

CEOs for Cities: "On the Edge: Our City’s Middle Neighborhoods," by Paul C. Brophy, Brophy & Reilly LLC (July 25th, 2017)

Forbes: "The Desperate Need for the Vanishing Middle Neighborhood," by Erik Sherman (July 1st, 2017)

Billy Penn: "5 ideas from City Council to fix Philly’s middle neighborhoods," by Mark Dent (June 21st, 2017)

Billy Penn: "From Temple to Trump: Philly’s middle neighborhoods go to Washington," by Mark Dent (May 23rd, 2017)

Media Center, Congressman Dwight Evans; Press Release: "Congressman Evans Raises Dialogue on Middle Neighborhoods in Congress," by Becca Brukman (May 19th, 2017)

Next City: "Some Philadelphia Neighborhoods Are Walking a Line Between Boom and Bust," by Sandy Smith (May 15th, 2017)

St. Louis Public Radio: "What are St. Louis’ ‘middle neighborhoods’ and how can they be stopped from falling into distress?," by Kelly Moffitt (April 27th, 2017)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: "The death and life of Philadelphia's 'middle neighborhoods,'" by Inga Saffron (March 17th, 2017)

Billy Penn: "Philly ‘middle neighborhoods’ like Tacony, Mayfair to get City Council hearing," by Mark Dent (March 9th, 2017)

Philly Voice: "Infrequently Asked Questions: What is a middle neighborhood?," by Brandon Baker (February 22nd, 2017)

Billy Penn: "Philly’s forgotten middle: Places like West Oak Lane, Tacony endangered," by Mark Dent (February 22nd, 2017)

Governing: "America’s Forgotten ‘Middle Neighborhoods,'" by Paul C. Brophy & Ira Goldstein (January 5th, 2017)

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