Redlining Is The Reason So Few Black People Own Homes

Redlining Map/Unknown/Wikimedia/Public Domain


In 1933, America faced a massive housing crisis in the wake of the Great Depression that shook up the entire economy. To combat this epidemic, President Franklin Roosevelt and his administration instituted the practice of redlining, which disproportionately hurt African-Americans who hoped to own homes.

Appropriately named, redlining literally meant color-coding maps to draw boundaries between areas that were deemed good investments for banks and those that were not. As you can probably guess, Blacks inhabited the majority of areas considered risky investments.

The Federal Housing Association (FHA) shaded “good” neighborhoods green or blue and included mostly lower and middle class whites who received mortgages fairly easily. On the contrary, the FHA considered areas shaded in red unfit for lending and typically encompassed Black or immigrant communities.

Redlining was legal segregation no matter what fancy language is used to say otherwise. Black neighborhoods crumbled as a result of these practices which pushed African-Americans out of developed areas and into housing projects.

In 1968, the Civil Rights Act a.k.a. Fair Housing Act passed outlawing redlining, but unfortunately thirty years of segregation and discrimination left Black families decades behind in terms of wealth. Not only did redlining affect home ownership, many businesses refused to set up shop in these areas leaving countless Black people jobless.

One of the most alarming aspects of redlining is that the FHA provided reasons for grading neighborhoods the way they did. For example, “infiltrated by Negros,” “respectable homes, but too close to Negro area,” and “full of poor Negroes” were typical reasons given for shading a community red.

Literally, one Black-owned home in an area could prevent the other community members from receiving loans. These banks essentially applied the “one-drop rule” to judge these neighborhoods as desirable or not.  

For entirely too long, Blacks have received the short end of the stick, especially when it comes to building wealth for future generations. While many white families send their kids to college with equity from homes that they were basically just given, lots of Black families barely make ends meet - let alone find money for college tuition and fees.

This is why financial literacy is so important and it is imperative that we find ways to build self-sustaining Black communities.

If you want to know more about the history of redlining, pick up a copy of “The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.”

Mapping Equality created an interactive map that allows you to view the grades and their reasons for over 150 cities across the United States. To check out the redlining map for neighborhoods where you live, just type in your city and prepare to be amazed here.

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