The Ghosts of Housing Discrimination Reach Beyond Redlining

Urban Institute

Over the last few years, as public attention has focused on disparities caused by structural racism embedded in policy and practice throughout United States history, redlining has emerged as an  illustrative policy of structural barriers to homeownership and wealth-building opportunities.

The reasons for that emphasis are clear: Redlining—a practice starting in the late 1930s in which multiple real estate and public sector actors developed and adopted color-coded maps to identify areas’ “riskiness” for housing investment and mortgage lending—relied explicitly on racist assumptions. For decades, until the Fair Housing Act of 1968, redlining legally blocked groups of people (especially Black households and other households of color) from homeownership opportunities based on race, ethnicity, and religion. And, while many historical racist real estate practices are difficult to track, scholars’ work to share the 1930s-era Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) city-specific maps with the public has made the practice visually tangible and stark.