Redlining — the racist practice in which insurance companies, banks, mortgage lenders, and federal and local governments refuse to do business with homeowners in minority-led communities — is a big problem in Canada and the U.S.

It creates a cycle of exclusion by marking minority-led communities as “undesirable” — steering away potential developers, businesses, and other valuable urban resources that provide children with tools that help them to thrive physically, mentally, and academically.

For many people who live outside the targeted neighbourhoods, redlining is a hidden practice, albeit one with real and measurable impacts. In September, for example, research showed us how racism and classism hurt urban biodiversity and can exacerbate the spread of disease.

“It’s all remarkably racist,” Dr. Robert Nelson at the University of Richmond said in a recent interview with The Denver Channel.

“These are not maps that were just produced by banks that had discriminatory lending practices. This is the federal government saying discriminatory racist lending policies is best practice in the industry.”


Last week, the U.S. National Association of Realtors (NAR) issued a formal apology for its contribution to “racial inequity and segregation in housing.”

In a virtual fair-housing summit hosted by NAR, president Charlie Oppler called redlining and “outrage” and “shameful”.

“What Realtors did was an outrage to our morals and our ideals,” Oppler said.

“We can’t go back to fix the mistakes of the past, but we can look at this problem squarely in the eye. And, on behalf of our industry, we can say that what Realtors did was shameful, and we are sorry.”

According to Bloomberg, the apology represents the first time the 1.4 million-member association has acknowledged the role it played in upholding racist structures.


In 1968, NAR initially opposed the Fair Housing Act and allowed the exclusion of members based on race or gender. 

“This discrimination was part of a systematic policy of residential racial segregation, led by the federal government and supported by America’s banking system and real estate industry, and driven by practices like redlining,” NAR says in a statement.


NAR says it has implemented a fair housing program called ACT, which will “lead in the fight against housing discrimination.” The association also pledged to work alongside national groups to address the persistently low rates of homeownership among Black Americans.

According to U.S. Census data, about 46.4 per cent of Black Americans owned a home in the U.S. as of September 30, compared to 75.8 per cent of white Americans.

“You can see in our neighborhoods the imprints of redlining from 80 years ago,” NAR Director of Fair Housing Bryan Greenesaid at the summit.

“Many of these discriminatory practices denied the opportunities for families to pass on wealth. We see that white Americans own 10 times the wealth of African-Americans.”


Over the past few months, there has been a widespread shift in perceptions of racism, with several high profile organizations acknowledging its prevalence and pledging to confront it.

Earlier this month, for example, the American Physical Society pledged to review statistics on police conduct when selecting venues for its scientific meetings.

Not long after, the American Medical Association acknowledged that racism is a public health threat. On the business front, the 2021 Fortune 500 list will allow users to rank and sort companies based on their diversity data.


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