On Sept. 29, I've been asked by the Wasatch Front Regional Council and Land Use Institute to join a Zoom call (like I knew what those were a year ago? —no!) and be on a panel about affordable housing, the history of red lining in Utah and how old rules of overt discrimination against minorities have trickled down into housing trends today.
I was asked to speak because of my article here on the now-defunct practices by banks in this country to "red line" neighborhoods where minorities lived so as not to grant home loans to people who lived or wanted to live in areas like Rose Park (west of Interstate 80 from the state Capitol).
Housing discrimination against African Americans in this country was so pervasive that in the 1930s, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation created color-coded maps of neighborhoods which they considered were at highest risk of loan defaults. Why would a bank grant a home loan to someone who wanted to live in a "red" area if the odds were (according the HOLC) that the buyer would default?
Because of these rules, neighborhoods were often made up of white-only home ownership or of rentals full of minorities kept from owning homes due to loan limitations they may or may not have known about. Move 90 years ahead, and "forgotten" places like Rose Park are experiencing major gentrification and seeing massive growth of homeowners. The neighborhood is affordable to many first-time buyers now, and there are no lending discriminations because, if reported, a lender will have the wrath of the feds come down on them like a wrecking ball.
It's ironic that areas formerly red-lined by lenders are now some of the hottest areas for first-time buyers, many of whom are Black, Latinx and South Pacific minorities.
The Wasatch Front Regional Council is a volunteer group of local elected officials including county commissioners or council people as well as nonvoting members from the Utah House and Senate, UDOT and UTA to help plan transportation in our area for the short and long term.
This group also offers assistance in forming policy and outreach to other groups on air-quality strategies as well as community and economic development concepts that serve seniors, people with disabilities and low-income folk.
And if that's not enough, the WFRC also works with Homeland Security to write mitigation plans in case of natural disasters like earthquakes, derechos and snow-nados if they were to happen here to make sure our emergency communication tools and protocols are up to snuff.
And the Land Use Institute was created in 2007 to raise the professionalism of those involved in land use issues.