Support Middle Neighborhoods with a Federal Investment in Home Rehab

By Julia Gordon & Theo Chang

Neither rich nor poor. Neither gentrifying nor in steep decline. “Middle neighborhoods” have recently captured the attention of community development circles (and are the subject of ongoing coverage in Next City). These neighborhoods, broadly defined as areas with households earning 80 to 120 percent of the area median income, currently face a growing number of challenges. One glaring challenge is age — while homeownership rates are high, houses in middle neighborhoods are often quite old, and residents tend to have fewer resources for upkeep.

We work in a number of cities with many middle neighborhoods, connecting foreclosed homes to community housing organizations that will acquire and properly rehabilitate those homes. For example, in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, more than half of residents live in middle neighborhoods. As is the case in many of the cities along the East Coast, three-quarters of the homes in Baltimore were built before 1960.

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What Product Will Capture Massive Missing-Middle Opportunity? Providing right-priced product for the working class takes diligence.

November 4th, 2018 | BUILDER Online

By

The development and delivery of right-sized, right-priced workforce housing is one of the most challenging yet undervalued opportunities for builders and developers today.

This so-called “middle neighborhood” defines a third to half of urban America, representing a wide variety of ethnicities to form some of the most racially and socioeconomically diverse areas in the country, says Paul Brophy, principal at Brophy & Reilly, a community development consulting firm based in Ellicott City, Md., and editor of On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods. In the book, he shares dozens of case studies from policymakers, scholars, and other community development professionals.

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How Communities of Practice Make a Difference in Middle Neighborhoods

October 22nd, 2018 | Next City

By Oscar Perry Abello

Not quite thriving, not quite distressed and ignored by policymakers, middle neighborhoods look to community development groups for support and stability. A look at the programs that can improve outcomes in these precarious places.

The story of Chatham, on the South Side of Chicago, while unique in many ways, can also sound familiar to those in neighborhoods of cities all across the country. Families moved here from far away, often fleeing violence and oppression. Parents found good paying, steady jobs. They put down roots and purchased homes. Children grew up with encouragement from parents, teachers, relatives and friends, some of them going on to Ivy League colleges and illustrious professional careers.

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(The Urgent Case for) Middle Neighborhoods, One of the Most Overlooked Assets in America

By Paul Brophy and Frank Woodruff

The recently-released Opportunity Atlas provides fresh evidence that neighborhoods — even blocks within neighborhoods — are determinants of children’s life chances, even when families have similar incomes. Similarly, the Neighborhood Life Expectancy Project shows how disparities in health, block by block, are based on neighborhood conditions.

These new reports are a reminder that the streets we call home — even more than the cities, counties, towns and suburbs we live in — are major predictors of quality of life and life opportunity. Given this growing understanding of how neighborhoods affect life outcomes, why aren’t more policymakers, civic and private leaders turning their attention to them?

One important issue gaining traction in urban policy discussions is the critical role of middle neighborhoods, which may be the most overlooked asset in today’s cities and suburbs.

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National links: Middle neighborhoods — ordinary, important, underfunded

By Jeff Wood

“Middle neighborhoods” are prevalent and important — so why are they ignored? Your bus network may never change, even though changing it would make it better. During campaign season, mayoral candidates shift their focus from downtowns to neighborhoods.

Neither the little guy nor the bigwig: “Middle neighborhoods” are home to much of the US population. They aren’t flashy — most residents make 80% to 120% of area median income — but they’re often strongholds of racial diversity and allow people to be upwardly mobile. Despite their importance, they don’t get the same attention and funding as the poorest or wealthiest places. (Kelly Regen and Stephanie Sung | Next City)

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Philly developers say numbers don’t ‘pencil’ out on city’s latest affordable housing scheme

By Jake Blumgart

Ori Feibush may be one of the more controversial developers in Philadelphia, but few would argue about the one-time City Council candidate’s ability to get projects done in the city. Now the man who brought roof decks to Point Breeze is saying that the voluntary development incentives included in a new zoning bill designed to raise money for affordable housing won’t attract the interest needed to make the policy work.

“We found that there wasn’t any project we were looking at where it would work,” said Feibush, who has developed over 1,000 units of new housing in Philadelphia over the last decade. “Our office looks at more than a dozen properties a week, so we have 100 properties we reviewed from the last couple months and we went back to every one of those and it just didn’t pencil.”

That’s a problem because hopes are high for this new voluntary inclusionary zoning bill — now under consideration by the City Council. The legislation would incentivize developers to pay money into Philadelphia’s Housing Trust Fund in exchange for bonuses that allow larger, denser developments than would be otherwise permitted under zoning rules. The bill is projected to bring $18 million to the Housing Trust over the next five years.

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Philadelphia anti-blight legislation back in action

September 26th, 2018 | The Philadelphia Tribune

By Jake Blumgart

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has given Philadelphia back its favorite blight-fighting tool. In a Sept. 13 ruling, state justices unanimously reaffirmed the city’s ability to force property owners to maintain the appearances of their vacant buildings, reversing a 2015 lower court ruling.

The case centers on the city’s “doors and windows” ordinance, which the Department of Licenses and Inspections began enforcing in 2011 as a means to reduce the number of unkempt, boarded-up buildings in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

The regulation intends to serve as a hedge against creeping neighborhood blight. It requires owners on blocks where 80 percent of buildings are occupied to install operable windows and doors on empty structures, instead of just boarding them up.

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City’s plan to battle blight leaves some neighborhoods out

September 24th, 2018 |

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Des Moines city leaders moved forward Monday on a multimillion-dollar plan to revitalize neighborhoods by busting blight, but only four neighborhoods are included.

The Des Moines City Council unanimously approved a $4.6 million pilot program to make improvements to Oak Park/Highland Park, the Drake University neighborhood, 48th Street and Franklin Avenue and the Two Rivers neighborhood.

Cheatom Park Neighborhood Association President Susan Wells said she doesn’t understand why her neighborhood didn’t make the cut.

“They’re stable neighborhoods,” she said. “They don’t have any noticeable infrastructure flaws. The inner-city neighborhoods continually get ignored.”

City officials said the plan comes off the heels of an outside study that says Des Moines needs to focus on stabilizing property values in so-called “middle neighborhoods” — places where the housing market is neither strong nor weak but could begin to struggle if there is more blight.

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Making the Case for America’s Middle Neighborhoods

September 24th, 2018 | Next City

By Kelly Regan, Next City and Stephanie Sung, The American Assembly,
with research by Brianna Williams

Today, nearly half of all residents of U.S. cities live in a middle neighborhood. It’s not a place where real estate is hot, where prices skyrocket and cause displacement. Nor is it a place in distress, overwhelmed by vacancy and neglect. Middle neighborhoods are racially and socioeconomically diverse, historically home to working- and middle-class families. They provide critical opportunities for upward mobility.

Some are stable. Some are threatened by gentrification. Yet many more are at a great risk of tipping into decline.

Neighborhoods are, by nature, constantly in flux. So why does it matter that middle neighborhoods are disappearing?

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Des Moines’ $4.5 million revitalization program limited to 4 neighborhoods

September 22nd, 2018 | Des Moines Register

By Austin Cannon

Des Moines plans to launch a $4.5 million pilot program to help neighborhoods buy nuisance properties, demolish decaying homes and make other revitalization improvements.

The catch: It would only be available in four of the city’s 52 neighborhoods.

That has some residents worried the program could further the gap between “good” neighborhoods and “bad” ones.

The Des Moines City Council is expected to vote Monday to launch the program in the Beaverdale, Drake, Oak Park/Highland Park and McKinley School/Columbus Park neighborhoods.

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