Middle Neighborhoods

“Building Advocacy for Middle Neighborhoods” is the second middle neighborhoods national meeting in Cleveland, OH on November 13-14, 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 ClevelandOld Brooklyn Community Development CorporationCleveland Neighborhood Progress, NeighborWorks America, and The American Assembly, are partnering on this event with support from with support from Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations, and Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs.

Sponsors for the panel discussion and reception on November 13 include the George Gund Foundation, Cleveland Foundation, and Third Federal Savings & Loans.

“Building Advocacy for Middle Neighborhoods" 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 combining 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.





Next City: "Setting the Stage to Revive America’s Middle Neighborhoods," by Alan Mallach (November 19, 2018)

Next City: "Support Middle Neighborhoods with a Federal Investment in Home Rehab," by Julia Gordon and Theo Chang (November 7, 2018)

BUILDER Online: "What Product Will Capture Massive Missing-Middle Opportunity? Providing right-priced product for the working class takes diligence," by Jennifer Castenson (November 4, 2018)

Next City: "How Communities of Practice Make a Difference in Middle Neighborhoods," by Oscar Perry Abello (October 22, 2018)

Next City: "(The Urgent Case for) Middle Neighborhoods, One of the Most Overlooked Assets in America," by Paul Brophy and Frank Woodruff (October 17, 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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