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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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Next City Wants Your Op-Ed about Middle Neighborhoods

August 21st, 2018 | Next City

Next City and The American Assembly are soliciting op-eds about middle neighborhoods—Where are they? Why are they important? And what are the biggest obstacles to addressing their needs?

If you are a resident, community organizer, practitioner, researcher or policymaker working to effect change in middle neighborhoods—and perhaps rewriting the playbook in order to do so—your input is needed.

Neither hot market areas nor overly distressed with falling prices, middle neighborhoods are reasonably affordable, stable, and safe. They are among the most racially and socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods in the nation and play an important role in building opportunity and prosperity. And while they get little national attention, there is a growing movement to document and share strategic interventions and policies that stabilize them.

Which is why we want to hear from you.

On the edge between growth and decline, middle neighborhoods are a subject of growing importance and we’d love to hear your insights. A sample list of Op-Ed topics to address include:

  • How do you define middle neighborhoods? What are their characteristics and why do they matter?
  • What steps have policymakers, planners, developers, activists or residents taken—working alone or together—to protect or stabilize middle neighborhoods?
  • What is the opportunity for coordinated action at a larger scale (regional, state, or federal) to support middle neighborhoods?

Please address all submissions (or pitches) to editor Oscar Perry Abello at oscar@nextcity.org, and include “Middle Neighborhoods Op-Ed Idea” in the subject line. Feel free to submit anything from a few bullet points to a full draft. The deadline for submissions is September 10th, 2018.

If published, Op-Ed submissions will be included in presentation materials at the next national meeting on middle neighborhoods in Cleveland, OH on Nov 13th-14th, 2018. The meeting is presented in partnership by The American Assembly, local community groups and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Practitioners, policymakers, and researchers will share insights and learn about recent efforts to build the knowledge base around middle neighborhoods. The meeting will also provide practical information about how to mobilize support to better serve these communities. To learn more, visit www.middleneighborhoods.org or contact Stephanie Sung at The American Assembly, ss4336@columbia.edu.

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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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