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.

Learn more about the Middle Neighborhoods Action Agenda for a National Movement.

  • Henry CisnerosFormer Secretary of U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Founder and Chairman, CityView

    “Many attributes define the health of cities – economic strength, unemployment levels, cultural amenities, and physical attractiveness – but they all should manifest themselves in quality places to live. In that sense, sustaining decent, safe, and livable neighborhoods is the most basic purpose of a city. Preserving and enhancing a city’s middle neighborhoods is not peripheral strategy; it must be at the heart of efforts to strengthen a city. Paul Brophy has assembled a group of experts who have effectively identified the challenges, underscored the importance, and offered solid prescriptions for capitalizing on the urban assets which are the middle neighborhoods.”

  • Nancy CantorChancellor, Rutgers University, Newark

    “Is America a land of opportunity anymore? Can families who strive for educational achievement, home ownership, job security, and healthy lives, find a place in our cities today? Middle neighborhoods, the subject of this terrifically thoughtful volume, sit critically in the center of that landscape. The essays in this volume speak convincingly from the force of on-the-ground experience that middle neighborhoods can spearhead the broader effort to recapture America’s opportunity map. It is a must read at a time when it is too facile to give up and too urgent to wait to invest.”

  • Tom BarrettMayor, City of Milwaukee

    "Anyone familiar with American cities will recognize middle neighborhoods. They are important components of diverse and changing urban settings. This book offers enlightening observations, analysis, and advice on middle neighborhoods that are useful to policy-makers, academics, urbanists, and city residents."

In the Media

Has urban renewal come at the cost of suburban decline?

June 8th, 2018 | The Times-Picayune

By Kevin Litten

The magazine Governing published a report Friday (June 8) that examines the decline and neglect of urban “middle neighborhoods” — the highly diverse pockets of affordable housing where middle-class families have lived for decades.

They are places where people often moved after other urban neighborhoods became too dangerous, and in recent years, more expensive. Forty years ago, these were neighborhoods attractive for having newer housing stock and infrastructure, and they were places where families would know their neighbors — simply because no one had any real cause to move away, according to the report.

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Tax on new construction advances despite Kenney concerns, scorching criticism from building trades

June 6th, 2018 | The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Julia Terruso

A tax on new construction to fund affordable housing moved one step closer to passage Wednesday despite pressure from the city’s building trades to abandon the plan, concerns from the Kenney administration about its effect on businesses, and criticism from housing advocates who said the levy could end up benefiting wealthier Philadelphians.

The 1 percent tax, which would be placed on most new construction, could raise up to $19 million a year for affordable housing at a time when the city is experiencing a dire shortage, proponents of the bill said.

“We think this is going to give a significant boost to our entire city, not just Center City, where the market is going through the roof,” Council President Darrell L. Clarke said. “I think it’s an awesome program. It’s Philly-first. While we’re excited about new people in the city, at some point we have to address the needs of people who are here.”

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The Importance (and Neglect) of America’s ‘Middle Neighborhoods’

June 2018 | Governing Magazine

By Alan Greenblatt

Gregory James bought his house way back in 1972. As he looks around at the stone-fronted rowhouses that line either side of his street in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia, he considers himself a relative newcomer. Out of 72 houses on the block, he counts 15 that are still occupied by the families who were already residing there when James arrived. Back in the 1970s, this part of Philadelphia was a choice neighborhood for middle-class blacks who were able to move themselves out of rougher parts of town.

Now the homes in Mt. Airy are aging, and so is the infrastructure around them. The houses may be structurally sound, but not enough attention is being paid to the condition of things like driveways, curbs and retaining walls. James complains that the city itself sometimes ignores his community. There are certainly neighborhoods that are worse off, but you don’t have to travel far to find others where services such as trash pickup are noticeably better. “When you go further north, it’s better, and when you go south, it’s worse,” says James. “If you stay here, you’re caught in the middle.”

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