I have expressed interest in this topic because I am African American and I want to learn more about what my ancestors went through while also learning how the policies created back then still affect black people like me today. Currently, gentrification is a sort of buzzword that people are using to describe what is currently taking place in my hometown, the Bay Area, and I would like to fully understand what it means, and how it is impacting certain communities. Through this project, I would like to dive deeper into both redlining and gentrification by focusing on how redlining ended with the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and how gentrification started. I will also attempt to connect the two, and explore how gentrification is just a more concealed and diluted version of redlining. Throughout this project, I hope to answer these questions: What are the lasting impacts of redlining on minority communities today? How has neighborhood segregation developed overtime? What are the specific connections between redlining and gentrification? How can we desegregate neighborhoods effectively while sustaining/growing the economy? How will my solutions to gentrification play out in the real world, and if they would actually thrive? Read my full personal interest essay here.
It is no surprise that America has had a long history of actively discriminating against African-Americans, which has been going on since the nation’s founding. Racial segregation through neighborhoods and housing was one of the many systems put into place to disenfranchise the Black community. Racial segregation in housing was established from redlining communities and is now being institutionalized through the gentrification of neighborhoods. After the Great Depression, house prices fell abruptly and a foreclosure crisis occurred. In an attempt to recover from the devastating situation, the Roosevelt Administration commenced many federal programs intended to alter the nature of housing finance for the economy’s benefit. After establishing a new system of appraisal, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) drew residential maps for 239 cities from 1935 to 1940 and completed more than 5 million appraisals. The maps and the appraisal process were supposed to solve a problem that would help ensure the continued stability of property values. The maps were created based on the recommendation of local brokers and appraisers, and surveys. Neighborhoods were graded on a scale of A (least risky/most stable) to D (most risky/least stable). The Federal Housing Administration worked with the HOLC to “improve” the maps by redlining them because they believed by mixing demographics they could further increase the prices of the higher graded neighborhoods. Their goal was no longer to just keep property values stable but rather for them to steadily increase in high-graded neighborhoods (Hartley).
Redlining has had lasting effects over the years from its origination. In a fairly recent study, conducted in 2020, researchers at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found the history of redlining, segregation, and divestment not only diminished minority wealth but also impacted health and longevity, resulting in a legacy of chronic disease and premature death in many high minority neighborhoods that reside in historically red districts (Harshaw). On average, life expectancy is lower by 3.6 years in redlined communities, when compared to the communities that existed at the same time (Investopedia). Many researchers attribute this lower life expectancy to illnesses mainly caused by pollution and the disregard for people living around industrial facilities (Harshaw). Minority communities suffered even more indirectly because of the government-mandated redlining. In comparison to non-redlined communities, the infant mortality rates of redlined communities were found to be significantly higher by 800% (Reece). While redlining put the overall health of minority communities at risk, it also placed African-Americans and other minorities at an extreme disadvantage economically. These disadvantages lasted more than a couple of years, and they penetrated into the future generations of African-Americans. Although race-based discrimination in the housing market has been long outlawed, “families in redlined communities gained 52% less—or $212,023 less—in personal wealth generated by property value increases than one in a greenlined neighborhood over the last 40 years” (Anderson). Read my full historical background essay here.
Redlining is a primary factor in the systemic racism that still takes place in America today. There has been a 20-30% homeownership gap between black and white homeowners for more than 100 years in America, ultimately disenfranchising the Black community. In the Bay Area, 54 percent of low-income residents of color are either experiencing gentrification or are at risk of gentrification. Gentrification isn’t another isolated incident that is disconnected from the history of redlining. 87% of today’s currently gentrifying areas in San Francisco were rated as “hazardous” (red) or “definitely declining” (yellow) by HOLC and 45% of today’s exclusionary areas in San Francisco were rated as “best” (green) or “still desirable” (blue) by HOLC (Redlining and Gentrification). Our current conditions are shaped by decades of racist housing policies. The Federal Housing Administration was supposed to improve the housing market and living standards of the average American, yet ended up harming the lives of Black Americans and other marginalized communities. Investing and creating jobs without regard for the residents would worsen the state of the community by displacing its non-affluent longstanding residents. You can read about the full problem and its full solutions here.
Due to the ongoing problem of racial housing segregation, the solutions to this problem aren’t simple. Investing and creating jobs without regard for the residents would worsen the state of the community by displacing its non-affluent longstanding residents. Individuals should be actively engaged in their communities and help support or advocate against big construction developments.
When moving into a neighborhood, you should take into consideration why you are moving into that community. You should research the history of the city and neighborhood. After researching before moving you should ask yourself: Is this area currently undergoing gentrification? If so, you should think twice about moving in and being an ongoing problem. Lastly, you should be active politically and always advocate for policies that benefit victims of racial housing segregation and gentrification.
There are many government initiatives that could reduce the harm of residential segregation and combat gentrification. First, we need to re-incentivize homeownership over renting. Revamping the Community Reinvestment Act is a viable strategy to promote homeownership in communities. The government could enforce more funds from banks going to lower-income communities and change this number based on each community. Changes in neighborhoods should also happen in concurrence with developments in ways to find early signs of gentrification (Chapple and Zuk).
Second, public housing should be created through taxation of the wealthy who sustain this housing crisis. Quality public housing would provide affordable housing to families without the worry of displacement. The homes should be built outside areas that were previously redlined in order to reduce concentrated areas of poverty and lead to more problems (Kim).
Lastly, we need to exempt taxes for long-time homeowners. After buying a home, which is the first step, homeowners need to keep their homes. The Homestead Exemption Tax gives a method for incentivizing people to keep the property. The only step would be to increase the tax exemption making homeownership more manageable for low-income families (Tol). Due to the complicated nature of racial segregation in housing and gentrification combating it is difficult, but we cannot give up.
I would greatly appreciate feedback on my micro solutions and which seemed possible for the average community member. Thank you for visiting my website.