Many people think they know what redlining is.
Redlining is often described as discriminatory race-based lending policies targeting black and non-white people. These policies have illegally and "legally" blocked non-white people from obtaining mortgages and services for decades in this country. And they continue today.
"We can’t get a leg up,” says Aisha Butler, Co-Founder, and CEO of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood. “Every decade, we try, we get there, and then we get knocked back down. And it really hurts, and it’s trauma attached to it of just being Black.”
However, "redlining" does not adequately depict the horrific effects of the practice on People Of Color in our country. "Classic" redlining has evolved and still affects these communities today.
My Personal Experience with Redlining
As a black male raised in a single-parent home in this country, I know first-hand the impact of this structural violence.
My family lived in multiple apartments, basements, and different living situations. As a child, the instability caused me a lot of stress and self-doubt. I worried about my family's safety, and I became guarded, a trait I still have today. While our lifestyle felt common and normal to me as a child, as I grew older and learned more about why my family lived the way we did, I saw the injustices in housing and race in our country.
As I grew up, I didn't set out to fight these injustices, but now I can see that my past has led me to my role at Open Communities to make housing fair and open to everyone.
Redlining in the Digital Age
In 2022, "classic" redlining has shifted to "digital redlining."
Digital redlining shows up in many forms. Because of the lack of regulations and virtually no oversight, as these technologies emerge in our ecosystem, they harmfully affect POC with new destructive tactics.
For example, internet service providers refuse to offer specific services to lower-income communities because it is not "profitable." Today, reliable internet service is essential for work, school, telehealth, banking, and more. Without it, people living in low-income neighborhoods, mostly POC, struggle to stay connected to the world.
Then there are online real estate sites. Perusing these sites has become a bit of an American pastime (especially during COVID-19!). One would think we all are on an equal playing field behind our screens as we peruse Zillow or Redfin.
User data is one of the most valuable commodities an online company has. Digital real estate companies can program their algorithms to skew toward particular racial and economic demographics. These targeted tactics may lead to profits for the online real estate company, but they come with a discriminatory price – digital redlining.
Open Communities Fights Redlining in the Digital Age
We have expanded our fair housing fight for the digital age at Open Communities.
In April 2022, we, along with several other fair housing intuitions nationwide, won a historic victory in court against the online realtor, Redfin. The lawsuit alleged that Redfin's minimum home price policy adversely impacted buyers and sellers in predominantly non-white communities based on race and national origin. The settlement expands housing opportunities for consumers in communities of color in several major cities, including Chicago.
In a climate where many of these wealthy, private tech companies have enough capital, clout, and resources to influence any sector of our economy, we ALL must fight for fair housing for everyone.
As a team committed to creating more Open Communities, we must stay on top of how discrimination evolves as technology, communication, and policies change.