Recentering the ‘Middle’ in Our National Conversation

March 13, 2019 | Next City

By Michael Norton

There is a movement in many American cities to stabilize the property tax base, as the revenues it produces are critical to adequate city services. As Chicagoans head to the polls to pick their next mayor, there is heightened attention on the pressing need to shore up the city’s tax base and its property values. Meanwhile Baltimore is taking purposeful steps to fight property vacancies by preventing them from happening in the first place. In both cities, local decision-makers are focused on neighborhoods that have received little attention: middle neighborhoods. Chicago and Baltimore are just two examples of cities around the United States that are elevating the importance of the middle class and their communities into the national conversation. In a country increasingly defined by the extreme divergence between the most wealthy individuals and everyone else, the devastating effects of the disappearing middle are threatening the livelihoods of all.

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Growing Detroit’s African-American Middle Class: The Opportunity for a Prosperous Detroit

Detroit Future City

Detroit Future City is proud to introduce “Growing Detroit’s African-American Middle Class: The Opportunity for a Prosperous Detroit,” an in-depth look at the quantitative and qualitative aspects of African-American middle-class households and the value that the African-American middle class provides to communities.

Across the nation, there are more than 45 million middle-class households, of which 4.6 million are headed by African Americans. Detroit Future City (DFC) defines a middle-class household as one having an income between 80% and 200% of the national median household income. This translates to household incomes between $46,100 and $115,300 per year.

Detroit was especially important to the rise of the African-American middle class. Beginning in the early 1900s, Detroit, like many other major U.S. cities, became a magnet for African Americans, many of whom were moving north as part of the Great Migration in search of jobs. Although African-American manufacturing workers faced discrimination in hiring and promotions, Detroit’s economy still generated large numbers of good-paying jobs for blue-collar workers of all races.

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Towards a New System of Community Development

March 7, 2019 | The New Localism

By Bruce Katz and Ross Baird

Our continued visits to Opportunity Zones across the country (most recently Austin, Dayton, Kansas City, Norfolk, Baltimore, and San Antonio) and our conversations with literally dozens of practitioners reinforce our sense that the new federal tax incentive is (unexpectedly and slowly) driving the creation of a new system of community economic development. The process of invention is messy, haphazard and chaotic even by U.S. standards, made more complicated by the fact that a new class of investors and a relentless market orientation has been introduced into a system that has been largely dominated by a closed loop of actors motivated by either federal bank regulation or social impact.

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The ‘heartbreaking’ decrease in black homeownership Racism and rollbacks in government policies are taking their toll

February 28, 2019 | Washington Post

By Troy McMullen

Vanessa Bulnes and her husband, Richard, bought their house on 104th Avenue in East Oakland, Calif., in 1992.

The modest two-bedroom property is where they lived for 20 years, raising three children, and where Vanessa made a living running an in-home day-care center. Neighbors in the mostly African American community often saw her planting vegetables in the backyard, with her kids in tow.

After Richard had a stroke in 2008, reducing the couple to a single income, they fell behind on their mortgage and eventually lost their home to foreclosure. A years-long legal effort to refinance the loan on the property failed, and in 2012, the couple were forced to move into a nearby rental home, where they live today.

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Single-Family Subsidies Are Needed Outside Hot Markets

| ShelterForce

By Carey Shea

There isn’t a tax credit program available to spur investment in single-family residential neighborhoods, but an alliance of national real estate, housing, community development, lending, and construction organizations is working to change that.

Before Katrina’s wind and waves toppled New Orleans’ antiquated levee system in 2005, the city was already languishing under the burden of over 26,000 vacant properties. The levels of vacancy were so severe that the city hired the Center for Community Progress—a nonprofit that helps communities address vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties—to perform a vacant property study and recommend anti-blight strategies for implementation. The presentation to Mayor Ray Nagin was scheduled for the first week of September. Katrina blew into town on Aug. 29, flooding more than 80,000 homes and ultimately adding about 20,000 vacant properties to the city’s tally.

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The Middle Class Is Shrinking Everywhere — In Chicago It’s Almost Gone

February 18, 2019 | WBEZ News

By Linda Lutton

Chicago’s middle class, once the backbone of the city, is declining so swiftly that it’s almost gone, and a set of maps from a local university lays that reality bare.

The dynamic stands to affect nearly everything about Chicago going forward, from politics to schools to who will live here.

“It raises a lot of questions as to what kind of city it will be,” said Janet Smith, co-director of the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois at Chicago, which compiled the maps that document Chicago’s shrinking middle class — and an increasingly polarized city — over the past five decades.

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Webinar: Research to Inform Policy and Practice

If you couldn’t join the Middle Neighborhoods Community of Practice on Thursday, February 21, 2019 for the webinar on future middle neighborhoods research, you can watch the recording here. The webinar, now available for download, features a presentation on new research ideas by Alan Mallach, senior fellow at the Center for Community Progress, who has been […]

Search for a New Middle Neighborhoods Project Director in Cleveland

January 10, 2019

The Middle Neighborhoods Project Director will lead the Middle Neighborhoods Initiative for the Cleveland Community Development Corporation (CCDC) and report to the City of Cleveland’s Community Development Director. To create a mixed income, middle class city, Cleveland needs to foster the development of neighborhoods that appeal to families and that are affordable to those who fall above HUD’s 80% area median income (AMI) threshold.

In order to develop a strategy around the development and creation of middle income neighborhoods, the City of Cleveland’s Department of Community Development seeks a seasoned professional over two years who will be focused on this effort. Beyond their time, they need to be able to tap into consultants and partners who will implement a plan that will be realized over the next five years. The position is a two-year fellowship funded by The Cleveland Foundation. Read more

Setting the Stage to Revive America’s Middle Neighborhoods

November 19, 2018 | Next City

By Alan Mallach

Author Alan Mallach analyzes the challenges of changing demographics, aging housing stock and increased income inequality in America’s legacy cities, particularly for African-American neighborhoods in those cities.

The dramatic rise of American industry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries drew millions of workers into U.S. cities, triggering the expansion of the nation’s urban middle and industrial working classes. Across the country, “middle neighborhoods” sprang up to house these middle-income households: blocks of single-family homes connected by busy arterial streets, with businesses, houses of worship, public schools, and distinct ethnic or racial identities that sustained a social fabric paralleling their physical form.

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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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