Congressman Dwight Evans (PA-02), Black Press - Ever heard the term middle neighborhoods? If you haven’t, you have likely visited, lived in or driven through one more recently than you think.
Middle neighborhoods are communities on the edge of growth and decline. When we discuss middle neighborhoods we are describing neighborhoods that have four main characteristics: neighborhoods where homeowners can purchase real estate for an affordable rate, neighborhoods where crime rates are low, neighborhoods where school performance is sufficient, and neighborhoods where employment rates are adequate. Essentially, homebuyers in middle neighborhoods are willing to test the odds with the hopes that their neighborhood will improve rather than decline.
Middle neighborhoods are areas that are doing just well enough. We are not focusing as much resources or attention on these neighborhoods because we have yet to see an increased need to invest in these areas. However, if we aren’t careful these neighborhoods will teeter towards decline overnight.
In Philadelphia, over 40 percent of the population lives in middle neighborhoods. When talking about middle neighborhoods in Philadelphia’s Second Congressional District we are referring to: Mt. Airy, Germantown, West Oak Lane, Roxborough, and Wynnefield.
Two main trends are contributing to decline in our middle neighborhoods. One, housing trends show that jobs are moving away from middle neighborhoods and second, many suburbs compete with new homebuyers for residents.
In my district, Roosevelt Elementary School in East Germantown has not been updated in decades. How can we expect our students to better themselves when their classrooms are falling apart around them?
We need a public school system that supports the needs of our students, teachers and parents. Our students already have a lot on their plates, and shouldn’t have to worry about going to school on an empty stomach.
Thus, when we think about the issue of food insecurity in our middle neighborhoods we need to look for ways to broaden access to fresh, quality, affordable foods for people in our most underserved areas.
During my time in the Pennsylvania State Legislature, I championed Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative which links public and private funds to expand and build grocery stores in food deserts across our state. Through the initiative we brought nearly 100 grocery stores to areas in Philadelphia and underserved areas across the commonwealth that previously had very limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Our middle neighborhoods need a clear lane in both our public policy and investment conversations. We need to be cognizant and incredibly vigilant as this relates to housing trends that are impacting our city.