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.
- Define redlining and provide examples.
- Learn what policies led to the practice of redlining.
- Understand how redlining has shaped our communities.
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.
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?
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!
- Visit the Mapping Inclusion: Redlining in Iowa exhibit at the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids, which runs from September 10, 2021 - August 6, 2022. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $3.50 for students.
- Check out the book “The Color of Law” (368 pages) by Richard Rothstein, who posits that all levels and branches of government abetted residential segregation in the U.S.
- Screen “Segregated by Design” (17:00), a short documentary that examines how federal, state, and local governments segregated every major metropolitan area in the United States through law and policy. You can also host a free screening in your community.
- Read “Let’s Talk: What is Redlining and How Does It Affect the Homeownership Gap Today?” (5 min) to learn how housing discrimination is one of the clearest examples of systemic racism.
- Read “The Legacy of Redlining and Segregation on Des Moines, Iowa,” a research thesis from Iowa State student Kendyl Landeck, to take an in-depth look at the impact of redlining in our state capital.
- Watch “The Disturbing History of the Suburbs” (6:19), an episode of “Adam Ruins Everything” that quickly but humorously explains how redlining came to be.
- Watch “Housing Segregation and Redlining in America” (6:36), in which Gene Demby of NPR’s Code Switch podcast explains why neighborhoods are still so segregated today. Note: This video contains explicit language.
- Watch “Redlining and Racial Covenants: Jim Crow of the North” (8:00) from Twin Cities PBS to learn about the progression of racist policies and practices from the advent of racial covenants in Minneapolis.
- Listen to “The Legacy of Redlining” (38:00) from the In the Thick podcast to hear Richard Rothstein, author of the book “The Color of Law,” and Emmanuel Martinez, data reporter for Reveal, explain how redlining still shapes our cities and affects people of color.
- Listen to part 2 of the redlining episode (27:60) from the Bringing Down the HOUSE! podcast from Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity.
Share your reflections on today’s topic on social media using the hashtag #IowaEquityChallenge.
Next Topic: Housing Disparities & Discrimination