Map: Distribution of HOLC Mortgages in Detroit 1940

Redlining isn’t what we think it is. There are a lot of popular myths and assumptions about what the HOLC “redlining” maps mean for various cities and especially Detroit. Actual “redlining” maps don’t exist – they’ve either been lost or destroyed by the FHA or financial institutions.

Detroit, out of all large cities, had the highest number of HOLC mortgages given to Black homeowners with 880 mortgages (Michney & Ladale, 2019). The 1939 “redlining” map for Detroit is a security risk map created by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) after they had already given out mortgages in the city. It’s important to note that on that map not all red areas correspond with areas with Black population, but all areas with Black population are colored red.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was the entity that followed after the shutdown of HOLC and they created new maps. All the FHA maps and records were lost or destroyed during the Nixon administration. Financial institutions possibly created their own maps as well as utilized FHA guidance that explicitly discriminated based on the race of homeowners.

The map above from Todd Michney and Dale Winling distributes all HOLC mortgages by Census Tract and shows the percentage of homes owned by non-white homeowners. It is still very apparent both where Black residents were able to buy homes as well as the low number of overall loans to Black homeowners.

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