Page 50 - Network Magazine Spring 2019
P. 50

           The “middle neighborhood” is found in most legacy cities –defined by the Legacy Cities Partnership as those “located in the Great Lakes and Northeast region, with over 50,000 residents that have lost 20 percent or more of their population since the mid-century.” There are 48 of these cities across the United States, including like Detroit, Baltimore and the even the cities of the Lehigh Valley. Each of these cities has a "middle neighborhood," character- ized by decent, but older housing, low crime rates, and that historically housed the working and middle-class residents that contributed to the fabric of the larger city. They are typically composed of single-family residences with
an occasional small shop on a corner and are likely what comes to mind when we think of the small city, urban living in the middle of
the last century. There is nothing particularly distinctive about these areas. They are neither the most distressed in a city nor the most af- fluent, hence, their name. Upon closer inspec- tion, these neighborhoods have some great assets: many are walkable to shopping areas, have parks and green space and are near good community schools. All of these elements harken back to a time where cars were less prevalent, walking distance to amenities was key, and people valued the neighborliness and familiarity of their community.
Despite their lack of distinct identity, these neighborhoods remain critical to a city’s success and overall stability. These properties have provided a relatively stable tax base for city operations, for despite overall population losses in legacy cities,
middle neighborhood populations have remained fairly flat. Because of their important economic contribution to their city, these neighborhoods are becoming a focus
of urban planners as cities are observing their historically stable tax base becoming a
bit less reliable. Perhaps there has been an uptick in foreclosures and sheriff sales in the area. Maybe more children are qualifying for free or reduced lunch at the area school. A drive down the streets may reveal a number of homes that need repair. There may even be an abandoned house on the once bustling block.
These areas are frequently surrounded by more distressed neighborhoods which puts residents on alert for any signs of bleed-over onto their streets. Many middle neighborhood homeowners are still financially able to make a choice as to where they live, unlike residents of truly distressed areas of cities, and many decide to leave as indicators of further neighborhood decline appear. Longtime residents may be observing a shift away from a middle-income neighborhood to a moderate income one, and any perceived negativity
can result in a panic for homeowners who may decide it’s time to sell their home before conditions worsen. The more properties there are for sale, the lower the prices are pushed, artificially deflating the value of these homes. Older homeowners are unlikely to have disposable incomes to invest in older homes, many of which need substantial upgrades and maintenance, making them unappealing to potential homebuyers.
People with less disposable income for upkeep and maintenance purchase these now-affordable homes, defer the much- needed maintenance and continue the cycle
of decline. Homeown- ership rates in these areas are decreasing disproportionately to national and regional averages, while the rate of rental proper- ties is increasing. Moreover, property values in these neigh- borhoods are fairly low to average in compari- son to other areas in the legacy cities where
Middle Neighborhoods

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