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.




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)

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