A new interactive map from the University of Richmond lets users trace the origins of redlining through neighborhood surveys for 150 cities across the country.
In the ’30s and ’40s during the Great Depression, federal officials and local lenders rated mortgage risk in hundreds of cities based on physical conditions, as well as the race and ethnicity and social classes within neighborhoods.
The agency color-coded neighborhoods on the potential credit risk they posed based on outdated assumptions.
This real-estate practice of “redlining” led to decades of government-sanctioned housing and loan discrimination.
Neighborhood designations for New Haven, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, East Hartford, and New Britain are included in the University of Richmond map. However, survey notes are only attached to New Haven so far.
Hartford-area maps and survey notes have been collected by Jack Dougherty, professor of educational studies at Trinity College. Dougherty has written and spoken extensively about how schooling, housing and civil rights shaped Hartford and its suburbs.
Racial gaps in economic well-being, education, health, and generational mobility are all intimately tied to segregation and concentrated poverty.
The local and state governments created barriers based on race and wealth, the effects of which are reflected in neighborhoods today, Dougherty said.
Here are some then-and-now comparisons for neighborhoods in New Haven.
It should be noted that while these redlining maps mirror the racism at the time of who was worth giving mortgages to, it would be misleading to assume the damage they did without looking at the mortgage data of who got loans and who didn’t.
Some have investigated the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation and found they loaned to some black areas. Meanwhile, other federal agencies had explicit policies to not loan to people of color, said Dougherty.
The only difference is that the HOLC created color-coded maps using language considered racist.
“We’re human and we want to see that pattern that they must’ve caused that,” he said. “But while there’s a high level of correlation between the ratings of the maps and the social demographics of the areas there today, if you dig further, you have to question, ‘Did the federal policy cause it to happen were there other racist tools that kept poor people and people of color in those areas?'”