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 whom are 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 (TAA) organized convenings in cities across the United States 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.
The Middle Neighborhoods: Action Agenda for a National Movement meeting was held in Baltimore at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond on 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 United States, 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 members of Congress, Dan Kildee (D-Michigan), and Dwight Evans (D-Pennsylvania).
For a summary of conclusions, including highlights from each working group, and next steps, view the summary report here.
Learn more at middleneighborhoods.org.
On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods, a new book edited by Paul C. Brophy, aims to stimulate a national dialogue about middle neighborhoods. Presented through case studies and essays by leading policymakers, community development professionals, and scholars, this volume explores the complex web of neighborhoods transitioning—for better or worse—across America.
Middle Neighborhoods: Action Agenda for a National Movement summarizes discussions on policy, practice, and research, as well as priorities and recommendations for action following the meeting, which was held November 15-16, 2017 in Baltimore.
The Middle Neighborhoods: Action Agenda for a National Movement meeting, held November 15-16, 2017 in Baltimore, convened local and national advocates to advance thinking and prioritize action on middle neighborhoods.
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)
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)