How Redlining Still Affects Homelessness

One major historical cause of residential segregation is redlining. In the United States, redlining is when residents are denied various services such as financial services, which  typically occurs based on race. The 1916 Supreme Court case of Buchanan vs. Warley declared racial zoning to be illegal and in violation of the 14th amendment, which meant that cities could not explicitly exclude people from living in cities based on race. Nonetheless, residential areas got away with discriminatory actions such as  redlining because they did not explicitly state their exclusion of people of color. This made it difficult for people of color, specifically Black communities, to get financial benefits in their neighborhoods and prevented them from receiving other services based on where they live. 

In efforts to recover from the Great Depression, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), established in 1933, began to classify neighborhoods in the country to determine where it was worthwhile to invest money. Not surprisingly, the classifications were influenced by the racial and economic demographics , where communities  with higher populations of people of color were deemed less desirable and less secure. This pushed further segregation and prevented people of color from having proper qualities of life, as redlining impacted their housing, education, healthcare, and other aspects of everyday life. 

This phenomenon may seem  outdated and illegal, but redlining maps from the 20th century still have lasting impacts on people all across America. According to the Urban Displacement Project, in the Bay Area, 87% of San Francisco’s redlined neighborhoods are low-income neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are undergoing gentrification, which means that wealthier people are moving in and changing these neighborhoods. This displaces previous and current inhabitants because as the housing prices go up, they are no longer able to afford the housing they used to be able to. 

Why does this relate to homelessness in the Bay Area? When people of color are refused loans from banks or other forms of financial assistance, they are unable to afford housing with their assets and are more likely to become homeless. Redlining is a systemic form of discrimination that has played an essential role in creating long-term racial segregation and perpetuating the division  of people of different races and classes. It keeps more impoverished communities poorer without allowing them to have access to proper resources. 

A significant  cause of homelessness in places such as the Bay Area, it is essential  to address racial and economic gaps impacted by the lingering effects of historical forms of discrimination such as redlining. Future city leaders or state officials must create and revise laws that combat lasting consequences of redlining and prevent neighborhoods from further discriminating against people of color and those of lower classes. 


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