Robert Silverman, PhD

Professor - Department of Urban and Regional Planning 329 Hayes Hall - (716) 829-5882

Professor - Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Professor Robert Silverman Standing in front of large presentation monitor reading "Planning for the health and social inclusion of LGBT older adults".

Professor Rovert Silverman introducing a PhD Candidate Dissertation Defense

Robert Silverman’s work focuses on community development, affordable housing, and education policy, with a particular interest in shrinking cities. An internationally regarded planning scholar, Silverman says research is critical to the practice of planning as a source of fresh perspectives on recurring problems, critique and informed empirical analysis, and advocacy for equity and inclusion.

Silverman joined the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in 2003 from Wayne State University, where he served as an associate professor in the Department of Sociology. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses and seminars on topics ranging from community-based development to nonprofit management to advanced qualitative research. As a professor, Silverman values the honesty students bring to their critiques of his own research. He says student feedback is often uncensored and more provocative than comments received in other settings.

He aims to prepare students to work in a world where planning takes place simultaneously across a number of different types of organizations. In the last two decades the urban planning discipline has become much more heavily influenced by fragmented interests across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Given this shift, it is more important than ever to instill students with core values that guarantee their professional work is focused on promoting inclusive, equity-driven planning processes.

Silverman is widely published, with recent publications including the collaborative books Affordable Housing in US Shrinking Cities and Qualitative Research Methods for Community Development. As an expert in his field, he is often called upon to comment on local and national policy debates, and has been quoted in the Washington Post and New York Times. He is a dedicated contributor to the community, serving in the past as a governing board member on the Housing Opportunities Made Equal initiative in Buffalo, and currently as a research fellow with the Partnership for the Public Good, an advocacy group in Buffalo.

When you fly over any city, the first thing you notice is that most of the built environment is dedicated to housing and residential neighborhoods. As humans, our relationship to housing and neighborhoods is transcendent.

 - Robert Silverman

Recent news



  • B.S. (political science), Arizona State University
  • M.P.A. (public administration), Arizona State University
  • Ph.D. (urban studies), University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

Selected activities, honors and awards

  • 2014-2015 Urban Education, outstanding reviewer award
  • 2014 Article of the Year Award, Leadership and Policy in Schools, Moderator for the Cyberhood (
  • Emerald Literati Network Commended Article Award, 2012
  • Scott Greer Award for Postgraduate Achievement in the Study of Urban Social Institutions, 2009
  • Community Development Society Outstanding Program Award, 2008 (with Frida Ferrer, Jacqueline Hall, Jeff Kujawa, Kelly Patterson, and Henry Taylor; Outstanding Graduate, 1992, Arizona State University, College of Public Programs

Public Service

Dr. Silverman served as a member and chair of the governing board of the Urban Affairs Association (UAA). He also co-chaired the 2014 conference program committee for the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP). In addition to these activities, he has served on committees for the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), the Community Development Society (CDS), and other professional organizations. He is on the editorial boards of the journals Critical Sociology, Journal of Community Practice and Community Development. He has been a manuscript referee for the British Journal of Sociology, Housing Policy Debate, Journal of the American Planning Association, Journal of Urban Affairs, Sage Publications, Rowman and Littlefield, and other publications. Dr. Silverman has also served on the University at Buffalo Social and Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board (SBSIRB), been an academic delegate for the University at Buffalo Chapter of the United University Professions (UUP), and provided professional and community service in a number of other capacities


Silverman says the honesty and freshness of student perspectives serves as some of his most valuable input on his research.

Silverman says the honesty and freshness of student perspectives serves as some of his most valuable input on his research. Photo by Maryanne Schultz

Silverman's research focuses on housing and community development policies, with a particular emphasis on equity and social justice issues. 

This focus is foundational to urban planning and highlights the importance of planning for people and the application of urban planning as a tool to empower communities. Silverman argues there is a need to reassert a policy-centric and people-centric approach to planning, as opposed to one that one anchored in physical planning and design determinism.

Silverman's work challenges the notion that quality, affordable housing is readily available in struggling cities. He advocates locating low-income families in transit-accessible neighborhoods where schools, jobs, health care and cultural resources are all within reach, making it easier for those families to succeed.