On the Edge


Community Leaders Aim To Make Chatham A Shopping Destination

January 31, 2018 | CBS Chicago

By Chatham, Local TV, Roseanne Tellez

Chatham, a South Side community often in the headlines for the wrong reasons, is looking to change that perception. Leaders want to put Chatham on the map for shopping. So, business owners and community leaders are launching a “Buy Chatham” initiative to get more people to spend money there.

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New Philadelphia home-repair loan program available to residents in middle neighborhoods

January 18, 2018 | The Philadelphia Inquirer

By Caitlin McCabe

This summer, the city of Philadelphia will launch a $100 million initiative called the “Housing Preservation Loan Program.” Congratulations to Council President Darrell Clarke, as well as Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, the Healthy Rowhouse and other housing advocates in the Philadelphia metro area! A feature of Housing Preservation Loan Program (much unlike a housing program implemented in Baltimore that used private lending loan pool) is that it draws from city resources and will provide low-interest loans at a 3% rate to thousands of its middle neighborhood residents with houses in disrepair. Currently, recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau finds that “more than 160,000 homes in the Philadelphia metro area experienced roof leaks. Nearly 120,000 had a crumbling foundation. At least 70,000 homes had mold.” And lastly, about 258,000 households reported experiencing many hours of “uncomfortable cold.” The Housing Preservation Loan Program will dole out up to $25,000 per applicant and contribute to other home-repair grant programs to alleviate the city’s housing problems.

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The Lifeblood of Cities: “Middle” neighborhoods—neither affluent nor poor—remain crucial to urban success

January 9, 2018 | City Journal |

By Aaron M. Renn

The media tend to portray urban neighborhoods as either booming gentrified districts or zones of impoverishment. Neighborhoods in between get overlooked. But these older urban and inner-suburban “middle neighborhoods” may be where the next generation of urban problems—or solutions—will be found. Cities once held vast tracts of such neighborhoods, populated by workers in manufacturing or the civil service. With what analysts call a “barbell” economy dividing increasingly into rich and poor, it’s no surprise that urban middle-class neighborhoods are feeling squeezed.

Revitalizing our ‘middle neighborhoods’: One bold idea

December 3, 2017 | The Philadelphia Inquirer |

Op-Ed by Dwight Evans & Ken Weinstein

Cities compete for people. Philadelphia is no different. According to researchers at The Reinvestment Fund in Philadelphia, approximately 48 percent of city residents, across the country, live in “middle neighborhoods,” which are described as stable, working-class communities that generally lack outside investment, especially when compared with areas such as Center City, Graduate Hospital or Northern Liberties.

Middle neighborhoods are often saddled with blight, but have extraordinary potential for growth, when given the proper tools. They typically are affordable, safe, and functional.

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July 25, 2017 | ceosforcities.com | PDF

by Paul C. Brophy 

Researchers at the Reinvestment Fund in Philadelphia report that 48 percent of central city residents in the United States live in “middle neighborhoods.” These neighborhoods are generally affordable and attractive and they offer a reasonable quality of life, but many are in danger of decline.

A shrinking middle class, the suburbanization of jobs, obsolete housing styles, and shrinking homeownership rates clouds the future of these middle neighborhoods that serve as the lynchpin of success for most American city regions.  Yet these areas—that provide a substantial portion of local property-tax revenue–are relatively ignored by policymakers who have focused on the problems of concentrated poverty, gentrification, and the need for downtown revitalization.

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Across The Country, Some Neighborhoods Are Thriving And Some Struggling, But What About The Ones That Fall Somewhere In The Middle?

July 27, 2017 | HuffingtonPost.com | PDF

by Rep. Dwight Evans & Paul C. Brophy

Researchers at Reinvestment Fund in Philadelphia report that 48 percent of city residents in the United States live in “middle neighborhoods.” These neighborhoods are generally affordable and functional, and they offer a reasonable quality of life, but many are in danger of decline.

A shrinking middle class, the suburbanization of jobs, obsolete housing styles, and dwindling homeownership rates cloud the future of these middle neighborhoods that serve as the lynchpin of success for most American cities and older suburbs.

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The Desperate Need For The Vanishing Middle Neighborhood

July 1, 2017 | Forbes.com

by Eric Sherman

Discussions of income inequality frequently focus on the extremes — the poor versus the ultra-wealthy. However, as the reaction of voters in both parties should have reminded everyone last year, many places between the two poles are hurting and need attention.

I spoke recently with Representative Dwight Evans, a Democrat from Pennsylvania’s 2nd congressional district, which includes various sections of Philadelphia, some parts of South Philadelphia and Center City, and some suburbs to the west. The median income is just under $31,000 a year, more than $20,000 below the national median.

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5 ideas from City Council to fix Philly’s middle neighborhoods

June 21, 2017 | billypenn.com | PDF

by Mark Dent

When urban policy experts Paul Brophy and Ira Goldstein and a few colleagues recently came up with the term middle neighborhood to describe areas of cities that are relatively stable but at risk of decline, they envisioned the meeting held Tuesday afternoon by City Council.

Congressman Dwight Evans was talking about federal support and teaming up with city leaders. A stream of community leaders were testifying about problems and opportunities in their neighborhoods. And for over two hours, citizens and government officials were serving ideas back and forth.

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From Temple to Trump: Philly’s middle neighborhoods go to Washington

May 23, 2017 | billypenn.com | PDF

by Mark Dent

In early February, Temple University hosted a small gathering where urban development experts Ira Goldstein and Paul Brophy told politicians about Philadelphia’s middle neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are where about 45 percent of our population lives, mostly-stable areas at risk because they’re not getting privately developed like Center City and not so blighted that they receive government funding.

Months later, middle neighborhoods have gone national, slowly becoming a conversation topic in Washington, D.C. The issue of middle neighborhoods has reached the Office of Housing and Urban Development; Philly Congressman Dwight Evans hosted a Congressional briefing on them last week. The concept has even crossed the desk of President Donald Trump.

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Some Philadelphia Neighborhoods Are Walking a Line Between Boom and Bust

May 15, 2017 | NextCity.org | PDF

by Sandy Smith

Meet Diane Richardson, achiever of the American dream.

A Penn State graduate and the owner of a business that helps homeless veterans, Richardson followed a common trajectory for a child of the civil rights-era black middle class: She grew up in working-class neighborhoods alongside mostly black neighbors, and attended college, which was followed by a few years of working and saving while living with her parents. Then marriage and the search for a home of her own.

Like her parents, she migrated to places where she believed she could find a better life. By the time Richardson finished college in the 1960s, her parents had followed a familiar path of upward mobility from North Philadelphia to the city’s West Oak Lane section, a neighborhood that had been mostly white and Jewish, but was then filling with middle-class black homeowners.

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What are St. Louis’ ‘middle neighborhoods’ and how can they be stopped from falling into distress?

April 27, 2017 | St. Louis Public Radio | PDF

by Kelly Moffitt

There are neighborhoods in St. Louis that are thriving and those that are very much struggling, but what about neighborhoods that fall somewhere in the middle? On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, we discussed the idea of “middle neighborhoods,” which comes from a recent research study called “On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods,” published by American Assembly.

“When we’re talking about a middle neighborhood, we’re talking about areas that historically in the cities housed the middle class and solid working class,” said Alan Mallach, a senior fellow with the Center for Community Progress and contributor to ‘On the Edge.’ “These were areas that had a lot of homeownership and families. Those areas are losing ground.”

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The death and life of Philadelphia’s ‘middle neighborhoods’

March 17, 2017 | Philly.com | PDF

by Inga Saffron

They’re not among the star neighborhoods that can boast slick new townhouses and trendy bars serving craft beer. But they’re not blighted messes, either, forever struggling with drugs and shootings. These places are poised somewhere between success and failure. And they have a catchy name: middle neighborhoods.

Tacony is a classic Philadelphia middle neighborhood. Perhaps best known for its namesake bridge spanning the Delaware, it is too far outside the orbit of Center City to feel the warmth of its white-hot revival. But having come through deindustrialization and the foreclosure crisis with relatively modest damage, Tacony’s strength is that it remains an intact, working-class neighborhood where you can buy a decent house for under $100,000 and walk to schools, shops, and transit. If some of those houses and stores could use a little TLC, well, they’re working on it.

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