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Redlining: Mapping Discrimination Today

Our upcoming Walk/Roll the Redline Event is just days away! As we gear up for the experience, we want to provide some foundational education on

A flyer for Open Communities' event "Walk/Roll the Redline" with graphics of a person walking, a person in a wheelchair, and a person pushing a stroller. The background is a historic map of Evanston with the 5th ward colored in red, surrounded by areas shaded in yellow and then blue. A red swoop on the flyer highlights the statement "Explore the history of redlining and the future of affordable, fair housing at this community event to raise funds, awareness, and activation for housing justice on the North Shore." A QR to register and partner Shorefront Legacy Center's logo are in the right corner. In the top left corner is the blue and green half circle of Open Communities' logo. Saturday, April 27th, 2024, 2:00-4:30pm, Twiggs Park, Evanston. open-communities.org/donatenadserve

the deep-rooted issue of redlining. This discriminatory practice, once government-sponsored and ubiquitous across the nation, continues to cast a long shadow over our communities. In this blog post, we'll journey through the history of redlining, explore current policies that emulate it, and discuss ways to address its enduring impact. 


History of Redlining  

Redlining systematically denied access to home loans and other credit services based on race, color, or national origin. Black individuals were particularly targeted, facing exclusion from government-funded mortgages.

Homeowners Loan Corporation (HOLC) Residential Security Map for Northern Chicago and Evanston, IL. Areas marked in red were denied home mortgage loans by lenders due to their perceived credit risk.  Areas in red are toward the center and west of Chicago's downtown with yellow radiating out and pockets of blue and green on the perimeters.
Homeowners Loan Corporation (HOLC) Residential Security Map for Northern Chicago and Evanston, IL. Areas marked in red were denied home mortgage loans by lenders due to their perceived credit risk. 
The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), a government sponsored agency created during the New Deal era, created color-coded maps which delineated the supposed lending risk of entire neighborhoods – many of those deemed as high risk or “hazardous” were Black and minority neighborhoods. Consequently, a massive share of Black community members was locked out of the traditional mortgage market and forced into purchasing homes on unfair and inflated contracts. This is a major factor in why Chicago is considered one of the most segregated cities in the United States, according to the Othering & Belonging Institute.

Other research shows that 74% of the neighborhoods that were deemed hazardous by the HOLC between 1935-1940 are low-to-moderate income (LMI) today; around 64% are minority neighborhoods today.


Evanston, like many cities, actively participated in this discriminatory history. During the Great Migration, Black residents were steered to designated areas, notably the 5th ward. A report from Evanston’s own Morris “Dino” Robinson, Jr., and historian Jenny Thompson, addressed a variety of ways that the city contributed to segregation. We encourage everyone to read through this report and support the work of Shorefront Legacy Center to learn more about Evanston’s history. Despite progress, Evanston still grapples with policies that disproportionately affect Black communities. 


Contemporary Challenges   
Map of Evanston with areas shaded in green in the center and southern portions of the map, indicating areas where census tract data shows Black residents are the predominate racial group in that area. Areas shaded in shades of orange, with one square in the center of the map and additional areas to the south on the map indicate areas with larger Hispanic populations. Areas shaded in light to darker purple indicate predominately white residents in areas in the north, west, and east areas on the map.
Census tract data compiled by PolicyMap, Predominant racial or ethnic group (Green = Black residents, non-Hispanic, Purple = White residents, non-Hispanic, Red = Latine)

While redlining is now illegal, its legacy persists. The US Department of Justice and other federal agencies announced an initiative in 2021 which aims to combat modern-day redlining, leveraging civil rights laws like the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act (US DOJ, 2021). Other practices like reverse redlining (targeting communities of color for predatory lending) and appraisal bias (when comparable homes in minority communities are appraised at values far lower than homes in white communities) further exacerbate the disparities that were created through redlining. Of course, all of this came after three centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and other racist public policy.  

In Evanston, restrictive zoning laws also inhibit progress toward racial equity.
A map of the city of Evanston with various shades of yellow, orange, blue, and purple to denote various zoning areas.
City of Evanston Zoning Map

Zoning laws dictate the kinds of buildings that can be in an area; specifically, zones with the R1 designation only allow for single-family homes and are generally removed from industrial and commercial areas. This has the impact of limiting opportunities for affordable housing throughout the city and placing the bulk of negative environmental factors on the areas zoned for multi-family dwellings. Rezoning areas which currently only allow for single-family dwellings is a way to increase affordable housing stock. 


What can we do? 

Addressing the lasting effects of redlining requires a multifaceted approach. Robust fair lending policies are essential. The work of places like Open Communities addresses enforcement and compliance in a variety of fair housing issues, including lending. The Redress Movement has a toolbox with policy recommendations to address segregation depending on the community you live in; you can find a variety of other recommendations on their website. Supporting our partners at Joining Forces for Affordable Housing will help to advance critical policies like zoning reform.


Open Communities is currently working to support a number of policies that promote civil rights in housing, such as Just Cause (which seeks to prevent retaliatory or discriminatory displacement of tenants) and the elimination of so-called “crime-free” and nuisance ordinances that target communities of color. We are also committed to fighting pervasive forms of discrimination which have a disparate impact on communities of color – such as discrimination based on source of income and arrest record.  


Conclusion  

As we prepare to Walk/Roll the Redline in Evanston this Saturday, it's imperative to recognize the enduring impacts of redlining on our communities. By understanding its history, acknowledging contemporary challenges, and advocating for equitable solutions, we can work towards dismantling systemic barriers and fostering inclusive communities for all. Join us in our commitment to confront the legacy of redlining and create a more just future – you can learn even more about the topics discussed here at our event on April 27th! 


A red flyer A flyer for Open Communities' event "Walk/Roll the Redline" with graphics of a person walking, a person in a wheelchair, and a person pushing a stroller.  A community event to raise awareness, funds, and activation for housing justice on the North Shore. A QR to register and partner Shorefront Legacy Center's logo are displayed. In the top left corner is the blue and green half circle of Open Communities' logo. Saturday, April 27th, 2024, 2:00-4:30pm, Twiggs Park, Evanston. www.open-communities.org/donatenadserve. Free raffle ticket with registration. Circles show a picture of an ice cream truck, a redlining map of Evanston, and houses in front of words that say "Human Rights." Educate. Celebrate. Activate.

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