Redlined Neighborhoods More Susceptible to Flooding

Image: PBS.org

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

Due to redlining practices used by banks before the civil rights movement, Blacks and other minorities were only able to receive loans for houses in neighborhoods in “less desirable” areas that had a higher risk of flooding.  A new study shows that these neighborhoods are now more even more susceptible to flooding due to climate change.  According to CNN, modern US flood-risk maps look a lot like redlining maps from the 1930s.  These homes are now 25% more likely to be flooded than those in non-redlined neighborhoods. 

Why this Matters:  This study shows how the socioeconomic effects of redlining and the damage wrought by climate change can compound on each other. Flooding has already hit redlined neighborhoods particularly hard. In Chicago, Black homeowners have seen stronger storms taking over sewer systems and inducing flood damage.  Though these discriminatory practices were put in place nearly a century ago, their effects have exacerbated as a result of climate change. These redlined neighborhoods are 58% nonwhite, so the damages wrought by climate change could widen the racial wealth gap between White Americans and Black and Latino Americans. 

Disproportionate Impact

This report from Redfin found that maps of flood-risk were eerily similar to redlining maps from the 1930s across 38 metropolitan areas in the United States. Through their research, Redfin’s analysts found that redlined neighborhoods were at risk of taking $22 billion more in damages than non-redlined neighborhoods. 

Historically, the communities of color that live in formerly redlined neighbors suffer the most from natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina and had an inordinate effect on people of color — four of the seven zip codes that suffered the worst flood damage had Black populations of at least 75%. This was true of Hurricane Harvey as well, where predominantly Black neighborhoods suffered more flood damage than their White neighbors. 

To counteract this inequity, Redfin’s researchers suggest that the federal government set aside funds for homeowners in redlined neighborhoods to weatherproof their homes and make it easier for residents to relocate if the flood risk is too high. 

If not, it may be more difficult to rectify the racist practices of the last century. Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather summed up the nature of the problem for CNN Business: “It’s not like the historical practices that were discriminatorily diminished in effect. It seems like they actually increase in effect.”

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