Over the next three years, the federal agency refinanced more than one million homes. He provided long-term, low-interest loans to many new homeowners across the country, causing homeownership to increase dramatically over the following decades.
But only for some.
To show which areas were safe investments, HOLC gathered tons of local data to make “home security maps” of cities across the country. Neighborhoods have been classified into one of four categories based on “favorable” and “harmful” influences. Factors included the terrain and type and age of the buildings, as well as the “threat of infiltration of the foreign-born, black or lower-level population”.
The “A” areas, in green, were considered “hot spots”, where good mortgage lenders… “The“ C ”areas, in yellow, were considered to be in decline. And finally, the “D” areas, in red, were considered to be in decline, areas that lenders should avoid.
Not surprisingly, HOLC’s classification method has been heavily influenced by the racial and economic demographics of a neighborhood.
Private banks quickly adopted the government’s identification system, routinely denying home loans to residents of neighborhoods deemed to be at risk. The color coding of the cards became a verb: to mark a community in red was to mark it as junk and not worthy of investment.
Below are some of the original HOLC maps and recreated interactive versions, which use data collected by the University of Maryland T-Races Project. Created in the late 1930s, they exemplify HOLC’s neighborhood classification system for medium to large cities in the Bay Area and elsewhere in California. For interactive maps, click on each neighborhood to view copies of the original HOLC assessment surveys. Find additional maps for San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Stockton at the end of this article.
University of Richmond Historian Robert K. Nelson, who heads the Redlining Richmond project describes the methodology:
Neighborhoods inexorably shrank as the housing stock deteriorated and housing styles went out of fashion, driving values down to the point that a “lower level population” began to “infiltrate” the neighborhood. It was bad enough when these infiltrators were white working class or foreign born. Their presence compromised the social homogeneity of the neighborhood and accelerated the decline in the value of housing and the attractiveness of the neighborhood.
The movement of African Americans in a neighborhood was much worse according to this model, precipitating the permanent disappearance of its desirability and its “home security”. So while the HOLC ratings were given by weighing a variety of factors, including the age of the houses and the fashion of particular architectural styles, it is clear that the breed outweighed all others …
Although officially banned by the Fair Housing Act From 1968, the practice of neighborhood demarcation based on race and class had a lasting impact, depriving some neighborhoods of essential resources. And this, according to many, has helped determine the demographic and economic makeup of the neighborhoods we live in today.
More subtle forms of redlining continue, however, as evidenced by recent discriminatory lending practices. colonies and the problems of ‘Red retail line’, where companies avoid setting up in neighborhoods deemed undesirable.
See additional city HOLC maps at Urban Oasis Project.