What We Talk About When We Talk About Middle Neighborhoods

April 2, 2019

By Nelson Beckford, The Cleveland Foundation

Think about curb cuts for a minute. Fifty years ago, wheelchair users found it difficult to navigate city streets because of the sharp sidewalk drop-offs making it impossible to travel city blocks without assistance. Well organized advocacy and lobbying led to solutions such as curb cuts, ramps alongside staircases, elevators with reachable buttons, and accessible bathrooms. These interventions improved wheelchair accessibility while further expanding benefits to individuals with strollers and delivery people. The benefits pie didn’t shrink. Read more

Reflections on the ‘Building Advocacy for Middle Neighborhoods’ meeting in Cleveland

March 25, 2019

By Paul Brophy, Brophy & Reilly LLC

Approximately 200 people concerned about America’s middle neighborhoods met at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland on November 13-14, 2018 to advance practice, research and policy priorities regarding middle neighborhoods—those neighborhoods in America’s cities, suburbs and towns that are neither strong and vibrant nor deeply distressed.
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City of Baltimore Begins Work on Strengthening Middle Neighborhoods

March 25, 2019

By Tamika Gauvin, City of Baltimore

The Baltimore Innovation Team (i-team) recently kicked off its work on middle neighborhoods, where one-third of the city’s vacant houses reside. There are 22 national and global “i-teams”, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, that are charged with working on issues that mayors identify as intractable challenges in their respective cities.

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New Grant to Support Middle Neighborhoods Community of Practice

March 25, 2019

The American Assembly is pleased to announce that the Joseph & Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, a Baltimore-based group of family foundations, is providing a grant to support the nationwide Community of Practice. Read more

Community of Practice updates

March 25, 2019

The primary purpose of the Community of Practice (CoP) is to facilitate peer-to-peer learning and technical assistance opportunities. The Community of Practice has two practitioner co-chairs, Nedra Sims-Fears of Greater Chatham Initiative in Chicago and Jeff Verespej of Old Brooklyn CDC in Cleveland. They work with American Assembly staff Pamela Puchalski and Stephanie Sung, and consultant Marcia Nedland (also a practitioner) to guide CoP work.
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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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