Legacy Racist Mortgage ‘Redlining’, Fewer Green Spaces

THURSDAY, Jan. 28, 2021 (HealthDay News) – A racist mortgage valuation practice used in the United States decades ago has led to a reduction in green space in some urban neighborhoods, researchers say.

These so-called “red” neighborhoods have higher rates of air and noise pollution, racial segregation and poverty – all of which can contribute to poorer health.

In the 1930s, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) assigned neighborhoods nationwide risk levels based on racial makeup and other factors. “Dangerous” areas – often those whose residents included people of color – were marked in red on HOLC maps.

In the decades that followed, these neighborhoods experienced less private and public investment and remained segregated.

“Although the red line is now banned, its effects on urban neighborhoods persist in many ways, including depriving residents of green space, which is known to promote health and alleviate stress,” said Anthony Nardone , first author of the study, medical student at the University of California, San Francisco.

Lead author Joan Casey called for action to address the problem.

“Future policies should, with input from local leaders, strive to expand the availability of green spaces, health promoting equipment, in communities of color,” she said. Casey is an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York.

For the study, the researchers examined the relationship between HOLC risk levels and 2010 satellite images of green spaces in 72 urban areas.

The analysis does not provide any indication of the quality of green spaces. For example, green spaces in hot, dry regions may not be reasonable substitutes for proximity to natural settings and their health benefits.

The researchers also did not distinguish between public and private green spaces or unmaintained forests and well-maintained parks. In some areas, the presence of green space in the 1930s may have reduced a neighborhood’s chances of being annotated, the study authors noted in a Columbia University press release.

The practice was banned in 1968, but racist banking and real estate practices have persisted, according to the study’s authors. They said this was reflected in the fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis, in which these communities were disproportionately targeted by foreclosures and predatory lending by banks.

The results were published on January 27 in the journal Environmental health perspectives.

More information

The National Recreation and Park Association has more on the health benefits of green spaces.

SOURCE: Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, press release, January 27, 2021

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