Learning From History

Why Greenline?

Proposing A Solution

“Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”

~Ta-Nehisi Coates

We all bear a burden to restore what years of housing discrimination have taken from people of color.

“First, racism is productive, not in the sense of being good, but in the literal capacity of racism to produce things of value to some even as it wreaks havoc on others.”

~Ruha Benjamin

How We Got Here
1865

After the Civil War, General Sherman issues an order to redistribute land in the South to former slaves in an effort known as 40 Acres and a Mule. The order lasted less than a year before it was overturned by newly-elected president Andrew Johnson, a Southern sympathizer, and the land was given back to its Confederate owners.

1877

The Federal protection of Blacks in the South ends which leads to a period of pronounced racial terror. These conditions led to large numbers of Blacks leaving the South, also known as the Great Migration, and paved the way for racially motivated segregation in housing.

1908 – 1919

Various cities throughout the country such as New York, Baltimore, Louisville, St. Louis and others, institute zoning ordinances related to housing density, to discreetly restrict people of color from living in white communities.

1933

The Homeowners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) is created to help distressed homeowners by buying the mortgages from banks and refinancing them. This initiative led to the creation of a rating system that would later evolve into the industry standard practice of redlining, which systematically withholds credit from homebuyers in black neighborhoods.

1934

Born from the HOLC, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is created to boost home ownership during The Great Depression. The FHA insured home mortgages, but, statistically only for houses well inside the boundaries of white neighborhoods. In addition, the FHA was biased toward loans for new suburban construction, and therefore perpetuated the growth of white suburbs.

1938

Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) is created to make low-cost loans more accessible. However, only two percent of the $120 billion in new housing that was backed by the federal government between 1934 and 1962, was made available to nonwhites.

1944

The GI Bill is introduced to provide services to veterans returning from the war. Among the benefits are low-interest home loans, however very few veterans of color were able to access these benefits. The Veterans Administration (VA) begins insuring home loans to veterans, but the discriminatory practices of the FHA permeate the program. As a result, Black veterans are excluded from realizing housing access and wealth-building of the post-war housing boom at a time when homeownership was arguably the most accessible.

1956

The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act is passed which allocates $25 billion over 10 years for the construction of the Interstate Highway System. “This initiative accelerates and subsidizes suburbanization, disproportionately benefiting white middle-class families. It also leads to the demolition of what are deemed ‘blighted’ urban areas, displacing and further impoverishing communities of color.”

1968

The Fair Housing Act is passed making it illegal to use race (among other protected classes) as a basis for refusing to sell, lease or otherwise transfer property. While the Act made such actions illegal, discrimation remained pervasive due to inconsistent enforcement, implicit bias and the lasting affects of centuries of housing inequity.

1988

Bill Dedman wins a Pulitzer Prize for his series entitled, “The Color of Money”, in which he investigates mortgage discrimination by lenders and real estate agents. He discovers that “lenders nationwide reject Black loan applicants at twice the rate of Whites — and that high-income Blacks are rejected at the same rate as low-income Whites.” Additionally, “White middle-income neighborhoods get four times as many loans as middle-income Black areas.”

2007

“The peak of the subprime mortgage crisis. An epidemic of irresponsible mortgage lending driven by the high demand for mortgage-backed securities by institutional investors leads to a severe nationwide recession and nearly 10 million Americans losing their homes. Latinos and Blacks experience nearly three times more foreclosures than Whites, and decades of progress in their rate of homeownership is wiped out.”

2019

“The rate of Black homeownership reaches a 50-year low. The median Black family owns just two percent of the wealth of the median White family ($3,600 vs. $180,000).”

Greenline As A Solution

Redlining was the practice by which banks and insurance companies denied loans and refused to insure on the basis of the racial characteristics of a particular area. This practice became so deeply ingrained in the housing system, that even after it became illegal, the effects remained and were widely pervasive.

— Many of the redlined areas in cities retain the same racial makeup as they did over 50 years ago.

As a result, millions of people of color were excluded from accessing homeownership, one of the biggest wealth accumulators, at a time when the government was providing low-cost loans and facilitating ease of access. Through zoning laws, restrictive covenants, and other discriminatory practices, access to homeownership was preserved and furthered for some, while completely eliminated for others.

According to the National Association of Realtors, as of 2020, the homeownership rate for Black and Hispanic Americans was 43%, and 51%, respectively, compared to 72% for White Americans, and the rate for Black Americans has decreased over the past 10 years.

Greenline exists because of this history and how that history informs our current reality. We are restoring the lost opportunity to access homeownership and its economic and generational benefits. What we do is about more than just a down payment. It’s about justice. It’s about equity. It’s about repair.

Get Involved

Help Repair the System

We’d love to hear from you.
Why Partner With Us

See what’s Possible

We’d love to hear from you.

Further Resources

Learn more about the history of housing discrimination and the present-day implications.

Interactive Redlining Map Zooms In On America’s History Of Discrimination
Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity in the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances
Timeline of 100 years of racist housing policy that created a separate and unequal America
Definition of ‘Redlining’
How the GI Bill’s Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans
Subscribe to our

Newsletter

Stay connected and receive updates about our work and more.