All Things Considered: Racist Housing Practices From The 1930s Linked To Hotter Neighborhoods Today

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A form of systemic racism in the banking sector that severely restricted opportunities for Black people to buy homes, reduced property values in neighborhoods inhabited by Black people, and led to the erosion of Black communities.

The practice began in 1935, when the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, a government-sponsored entity, produced maps that rated the relative security of granting and insuring home loans in parts of a city. The maps divided communities into zones, each marked with a different color: green, blue, yellow, and red. Green indicated the “best” areas, where affluent business people lived. Blue areas were populated by white-collar families. Yellow indicated areas in decline that were occupied by working-class families. Red areas were categorized as having “adverse influence.” Neighborhoods in the red category—“redlined” areas—were populated overwhelmingly by Black and brown people. Local banks denied home loans to the residents of redlined areas. Studies indicate that people living in redlined neighborhoods were no more likely to default on their loans than people in the other zones.

The practice of redlining prevented Black families from building wealth through homeownership, while white families could and did. Through the federal government’s influence on the private banking industry, the practice of redlining has had a multi-generational impact on the financial stability of Black families and communities, and has strengthened patterns of racial segregation in American cities. The practice officially ended in 1968 with the passage of the Fair Housing Act, but its effects are still evident today through the racial wealth gap.

The article cites research finding that formerly redlined areas have about half as many trees as some white neighborhoods in the same cities.