Iowa Equity Challenge Day 14

Day 14 of 21



During the Great Depression, the federal government established the National Housing Act of 1934 to save the crashing national housing industry. Through this act, Congress established the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) to oversee federal mortgage and loan guidelines and created a neighborhood ranking system designed to indicate where it was safe to insure mortgages. This practice became known as “redlining” as a reference to the red lines used to outline mixed-race or Black neighborhoods on maps used by loan corporations.


Over time, redlining became an overt, systemic racist practice that was not only supported by the federal government but also adopted as the lending norm by a majority of U.S. communities. Maps from the Mapping Inequality project, created through the collaboration of three teams at four universities, show the visible scars left by redlining in Des Moines, Waterloo, and Sioux City, although redlining was practiced in all the state’s metro areas. Click the image below to explore redlining maps from around Iowa.


Redlining in Waterloo

Image Source: Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America


Even though redlining is illegal now, it still affects residential property values and homeownership rates. Formerly redlined neighborhoods could not develop and grow in the same way as neighborhoods that were not redlined. 


One long-term consequence of redlining is the persistent gap in homeownership rates between Black and white families, which is bigger today than it was when discriminatory practices were still legal. Experts believe that fundamental changes need to be made at the policy level to close the racial gap perpetuated by redlining.


Learning Objectives

  • Define redlining and provide examples. 
  • Learn what policies led to the practice of redlining.
  • Understand how redlining has shaped our communities.



Today's Activities


Choose one or more of these daily activities to learn about today’s topic. Plan to set aside 15 to 30 minutes to complete the activities and journal about your thoughts and feelings. 


Read “The History of Redlining” (4 min) from ThoughtCo to learn what policies led to the practice of redlining, as well as the significance of the color-code system used in residential mapping.


Watch “Undesign DSM: What is Redlining?” (11:34), developed by The Polk County Housing Trust Fund, part of a five-week series explaining the history of redlining in the United States.


Listen to this episode (24:06) of the Bringing Down the HOUSE! podcast from Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity to learn more about redlining in Iowa and what we can do about it today.


Explore Undesign the Redline: DSM - An Interactive Exhibit


Capture what you learned by writing down your thoughts and feelings about today's content.

  • What was your “aha moment” (moment of surprise or new information)?
  • Does this information change your perspective?
  • How will you use what you learned today to create more equitable spaces? 
  • What disparities are still evident in your community today due to redlining? 

    Download a free journal page for today.


    Additional Resources & Activities


    If you would like to dig deeper into this issue, check out these additional resources. We encourage you to revisit this material when you have more time. Feel free to come back to this topic as often as you’d like!




    Share your reflections on today’s topic on social media using the hashtag #IowaEquityChallenge.



    Next Topic: Housing Disparities & Discrimination