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

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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.