Friday, September 25, 2015

Mapping the History of Housing Segregation


The Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) was a government-sponsored corporation created as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Its purpose was to refinance home mortgages which were in default to prevent foreclosure. The unintended result however was to introduce housing segregation in U.S. cities, a segregation which largely remains to this day.

The HOLC is often cited as starting the practice of mortgage redlining. Redlining is the process of denying services to residents of certain areas based on the racial composition of those areas. Mapping Inequality, Redlining in New Deal America allows you to view the residential security maps created by the Home Owners' Loan Corporation to indicate the level of security for real-estate investments.

The result of the maps was that residents in the more affluent and largely white neighborhoods were far more likely to receive financing. Residents in the poorer and black communities were deemed more of a risk and so less likely to receive financial support.


You can observe the effects of redlining more clearly in this Esri Storymap about segregation in Washington D.C.. Mapping Segregation in Washington DC is a public history project exploring the historic segregation of D.C.’s housing. The map reveals how restrictive deed covenants were used in the early 20th century to exclude the city's black population from D.C.'s best housing.

Esri's Story Map template was used by the project to provide a narrative map which examines the use of racially restrictive covenants over the decades and the later legal attempts to overcome these restrictive practices.

The map concentrates on the north-west neighborhoods of Bloomingdale, Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, Park View, and Pleasant Plains. As you progress through the Story Map markers are added to the map to show the locations of properties whose covenants were challenged in court. These legal challenges and their verdicts are discussed in more detail in the map sidebar.


Propublica has also examined the effects of housing segregation in a number of U.S. cities. In Housing Segregation: The Great Migration and Beyond Propublica allows you to examine the geographical distribution of the black population in a number of cities over time.

What clearly emerges in each of the city maps is that little has changed in the reality of housing segregation in the U.S. since the 1940's. For example, in the map above you can see the distribution of the black population in New York City in 1940 (on the left) and in 2000 (on the right). Although the black population in now far bigger the majority of the black population are still living in mostly the same areas as they were in 1940.
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