Mapping Inequality has recently made available online hundreds of maps showing how the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC), a New Deal initiative established in 1933 to bolster the housing market, engaged in a discriminatory practice that came to be known as “redlining.”
Created with the help of local, government-recruited mortgage lenders, developers, and real estate appraisers between 1935 and 1940, these maps and documents assessed investment risks and credit-worthiness in nearly 250 neighborhoods, cities, and greater metropolitan areas. This often meant that local real estate agents and banks ranked neighborhoods according to their racial and socio-economic makeup.
Areas comprising minority and foreign-born populations as well as poorer residents were graded lower and were designated red and yellow on maps, while the desirable, more affluent (and usually mostly white) neighborhoods were colored green and blue. Living in an area with low HOLC ratings made it more difficult for minorities and poor whites to secure loans to buy a house. The effects of these designations are still being felt today—though some historians debate whether HOLC actually contributed to discrimination in housing or merely reflected what was already going on at the time.
Talking to National Geographic, historian Nathan Connolly (and one of Mapping Inequality’s leaders), said that the redlined neighborhoods didn’t necessarily even have high mortgage default rates. Still, homeowners living in those areas who struggled during the Depression couldn’t get help, and it became a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
“These residential decisions had decades-long consequences,” Connolly continues. “So much of the wealth inequality that exists in America is driven by inequality in real estate market and the ability to generate equity and pass it down from one generation to the next.”
Although the maps have always been available to the public through the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, this is the first time that over 150 maps and 5,000 area descriptions have been put online for anyone to access.
Via: National Geographic