On the Edge
by Mark Dent
Two weeks ago at Temple, researcher Paul Brophy gave a discussion about Philadelphia’s seemingly stable but at-risk middle neighborhoods and noted our city had no plan for them. He talked about the need for advocates to step up, directly calling out local politicians to do something about it.
It appears City Council has taken the message to heart. Ninth District Councilwoman Cherelle Parker plans to introduce a resolution calling for a hearing on middle neighborhoods this morning. The resolution stresses the need to “explore intergovernmental policy solutions to stabilize and support” the neighborhoods.
by Brandon Baker
In cities, visions of America’s upper crust and most distressed both are easy to conjure up. Try to envision cities’ middleneighborhoods of today, though, and the task is a bit more difficult.
What is a middle neighborhood?
Paul Brophy, a Philly-native neighborhood improvement expert, recently took up the endeavor of finding out, editing the book, On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods, a deep look at neighborhoods where you’ll commonly find healthcare workers, a wide range of races and ethnicities, and property values that are neither here nor there. Brophy also took to Temple University on Tuesday to discuss the subject with City Council members and the public.
by Paul C. Brophy & Ira Goldstein
An estimated 46 percent of the nation’s urban population lives in a category of neighborhoods that local governments pay little attention to: America’s “middle neighborhoods.” These neighborhoods are generally affordable and attractive, and they offer a reasonable quality of life, but many of them are in danger of decline.
Middle neighborhoods typically receive little or no attention from mayors, city managers and local housing officials, in part because they are not distressed enough to qualify for federal Community Development Block Grant funds and because financially stressed local governments seldom allocate local tax dollars to neighborhood-improvement strategies. Yet, these neighborhoods, which provide a substantial portion of local property-tax revenues, can easily tip into decline unless steps are taken to improve the investment psychology for them.
New York, New York (December 9, 2016) – The American Assembly’s new book aims to stimulate a national dialogue about middle neighborhoods. Leading scholars and practitioners present new evidence indicating that a category of neighborhoods exists in many cities and surrounding areas that planners and policymakers have neglected. These areas surrounding many cities and suburbs are described as “on-the-edge” between growth and decline.
“Surprisingly, a careful look at a half-dozen cities indicates that one-third to over half of the population of these cities resides in middle neighborhoods,” explains Brophy. “Yet, planners and urban policymakers typically have no strategies to sustain or improve middle neighborhoods. In fact, federal programs—which are income restricted— are of little or no value in these working class neighborhoods.”
The shrinking middle class as well as growing income segregation and inequality in the United States is the backdrop for this publication. The authors in this volume believe that increasing understanding of middle neighborhoods will enhance the discussions underway nationally and locally about improving distressed neighborhoods or coping with gentrification.
“No Mayor wants his or her city to become home to only the poor or only the rich,” said Henry S. Webber, professor of practice at Washington University and an author in this volume. “They all want their cities to be home to a diverse population, including a large number of middle class residents. The declining number of middle neighborhoods threatens the viability of this goal.”
On the Edge authors present compelling data, provide ideas for action, and advocate for new and innovative community, housing, and education policies to better support on-the-edge neighborhoods.
Contact Michelle Olson, Mission Point Inc., 773-820-2565.
For more information:
- Visit www.middleneighborhoods.org to learn more about the book, see excerpts, reviews, and learn about upcoming events.
- The book is now available for purchase through Amazon.
About the American Assembly
The American Assembly is a public policy institute founded by Dwight D. Eisenhower at Columbia University. For over 60 years, The Assembly has fostered non-partisan public-policy discussions through convening, research, and publication. On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods is published and supported by The American Assembly through its Legacy Cities Initiative. Find out more at www.americanassembly.org.