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Lessons From Decades of Racist Land Policy

President and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Dr. George McCarthy traces the legacy of racist policy and offers guidance toward an economic recovery that begins to undo systemic racism.
July 13, 2020, 11am PDT | Lee Flannery
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Los Angeles in 1939, as determined by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC).

In a recent article detailing the historical relationship between racism and land policies, Dr. George McCarthy, president and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, describes the legacy of color-coded redlining maps created during the Great Depression. These secret documents spun up by the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) delineated the segregation of opportunity in lending decisions where "neighborhoods that were home to high proportions of people of color or Eastern or Southern European immigrants were always shaded red, regardless of the quality of the homes or the local economy," according to McCarthy. The implication of the red shading was a lack of access to government-backed loans, and in turn, the loss of opportunity for homeownership in the redlined communities. 

McCarthy says that the HOLC's maps "deepened the racial and economic divides that have been the subject of recent demonstrations in our cities and those of other countries," and presaged the destruction of Black neighborhoods by the U.S. interstate highway system and urban renewal.

As the United States and the world reckon with another economic depression, economic recovery must rectify the systemic racism made possible by unjust, discriminatory land policy, writes McCarthy. "We cannot make the same mistakes we made in the 1930s—allowing the urgency of the moment to give cover to policies that maintain racial discrimination—nor can we take actions like we did in the Great Recession, prioritizing the wealth and survival of corporations over some communities."

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Published on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 in Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
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