Culture Builds Community

Document Type

Working Paper




This paper examines the housing markets described in the Philadelphia Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI), launched by Mayor John Street in April 2001, through the lens of social capital indicators. In SIAP’s view, the lack of hard data on the city's social and human assets made it difficult for NTI or other urban revitalization efforts to evaluate urban assets with the same rigor as urban deficits.

The paper uses SIAP data on three categories of assets to examine their potential implications for the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative: social institutions, individual participation, and economic and ethnic diversity. The paper argues that each of the three dimensions measures a different temporal aspect of social capital. Using economic parlance, institutions was proposed as a lagging indicator, participation as a concurrent indicator, and diversity as a leading indicator of social capital.

Specifically, the paper sought to assess whether differences in social capital reinforce or cut across housing markets, and whether a social capital perspective could help identify neighborhoods with a better than average chance of succeeding in transforming themselves.


The release of the John Street administration’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI) in April 2001 marked a bold step by city government and the private sector to address the long-term problems of economic and social decline in the city of Philadelphia. The plan called for a differentiated strategy of public-private partnership with the goal of reinvigorating housing markets throughout the city. According to the NTI housing market analysis, more than four out of five Philadelphians lived in the bottom three market clusters—transitional, distressed, and reclamation.

SIAP's Culture Builds Community inquiry was undertaken from 1996 to 2001 with support by the William Penn Foundation.



Date Posted: 18 May 2017