Policy’s Multi-Generational Effect

A project out of Richmond, but with contributions from other universities and foundations, has created a digital library of US state’s role in housing development. The project, Mapping Inequality : redlining in New Deal America,  illustrates quite candidly the interplay between racism, administrative culture, economics and the built environment and the long term effect of local and state policies.

The project offers online access to the national collection of “security maps” and area descriptions produced between 1935 and 1940 by one of the New Deal’s most important, albeit controversial, agencies, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation or HOLC .  Through Mapping Inequality project you can browse over 150 interactive maps and roughly 5000 individual area descriptions to get a view of Depression-era America as developers, realtors, tax assessors, and surveyors saw it—a set of interlocking color-lines, racial groups, and environmental risks.

Perhaps most fascinating, for anyone working in community development and neighborhood empowerment, is the very direct line between redlining policies of the early 20th century, and our 21st century communities facing disinvestment, disenfranchisement and poverty. It points out the profound and long lasting effect current housing policy has on our cities, and how decisions today will effect generations to come.

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Map example: Columbus, Ohio

Robert K. Nelson, LaDale Winling, Richard Marciano, Nathan Connolly, et al., “Mapping Inequality,” American Panorama, ed. Robert K. Nelson and Edward L. Ayers, accessed April 17, 2017, https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/#loc=11/40.0075/-83.0025&opacity=0.8&city=columbus-oh.

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