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


Ilhamdaniah's research advances understanding of suburban neighborhood change and school performance in the context of declining and shrinking metropolitan areas.


Urban planning professor Robert Silverman, in collaboration with Ken Chilton of the Department of Public Administration, Tennessee State University, are investigating the effects of single-family home real estate investment trusts (REITs) on regional housing markets, specifically in Nashville, TN. 

Robert Silverman, professor of urban planning, has been elected chair of the Urban Affairs Association (UAA) Governing Board. UAA is the international professional organization for urban scholars, researchers and public service professionals.

A recent study by Robert Mark Silverman that revisits the "chicken-and-egg" dilemma around neighborhood revitalization and educational reform has earned the 2014 Best Article Award from Leadership and Policy in Schools, the journal in which it was published.


This course introduces students to management issues in the nonprofit sector. Topics will include nonprofit: governance, board structure, planning, financial management, fundraising, grant writing, leadership, personnel management, and ethics. 
This course is designed to expose graduate students to quantitative analysis in planning. 
This course applies a critical framework to the examination of housing and community development systems in the US, focusing on historic patterns of discrimination and societal inequality that have been reinforced and perpetuated through urban social institutions. 
This is an urban planning skills building course that can be counted toward the group process professional competency area in the MUP curriculum. It introduces students to literature, case studies, and applied exercises focusing on planning skills relevant to negotiations, public participation, and community organizing.
This is an urban planning skills building course. It introduces students to literature, case studies, and applied exercises focusing on planning skills relevant to negotiations, public participation, and community organizing. The course emphasized how these skills can be incorporated into an equity planning framework to empowerment disenfranchised communities and promote social justice. 
This course examines theories, concepts, and practices of housing and community development. An emphasis is placed on: neighborhood planning, housing policy, public participation, race relations, and urban social institutions in contemporary cities. Course content and activities include: readings, lectures, discussions, and fieldwork. 


  • 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.


Professors of urban planning Henry Louis Taylor, Jr. and Robert Silverman join associate professor of urban planning Li Yin collaborated on the Buffalo Turning The Corner Initiative through the Urban Institute’s National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership University at Buffalo Center for Urban Studies.
Professor Robert Silverman guest edited this special issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs (JUA) which reframes the discussion of shrinking cities, placing an emphasis on the analysis of policies to promote social justice and equity.
Urban planning professor Robert Silverman, PhD student Chihuangji Wang and collaborators examine the socio–spatial distribution of properties in single family home (SFR) real estate investment trusts (REIT) portfolios to determine if SFR REIT properties tend to cluster in distinct areas.
Professor and associate professor of urban planning Robert Silverman and Li Yin along with associate professor of social work Kelly Patterson examine the content and structure of the new affirmatively furthering fair housing mapping tool (AFFH-T) developed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of its new assessment of fair housing (AFH) process.
Robert Silverman, Li Yin and collaborators explore the reasons for the failure (and success) of affordable housing experiences in the fastest shrinking cities in the US. 
Professor and associate professor of urban planning Robert Silverman and Li Yin along with associate professor of social work Kelly Patterson and urban planning PhD student Laiyun Wu focus on the manner in which affordable housing fits into anchor-based strategies for urban revitalization.