Among all the issues that have bubbled up around social justice in 2020, the history of redlining is a major one. The practice of redlining on housing maps in the 1930s shaped neighborhoods, communities, and cities in ways that we still see today, but how did redlining affect NoDa, then commonly known as North Charlotte?
Well, if you lived here (or in one of the other 10 redlined neighborhoods in Charlotte) between the 1930s and 1970s, you were considered an investment risk. This could affect everything from your ability to qualify for a loan to the number and quality of schools and other government services in your neighborhood. It could even influence whether grocers and other businesses were willing to set up shop on your street.
What is redlining?
The specific practice called redlining began with the National Housing Act of 1934, which established the Federal Housing Administration. In 1935, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board asked the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) to look at 239 cities and create residential security maps. These maps signified the level of security for real estate investments in each surveyed city. On the maps, areas considered desirable for lending purposes were outlined in green and known as Type A. Type B neighborhoods, outlined in blue, were considered “Still Desirable”. Older Type C neighborhoods were labeled “Declining” and outlined in yellow. Finally, Type D neighborhoods were outlined in red and were considered the most financially risky for investors.
Redlining is considered racist because minority neighborhoods were more likely to be redlined than their white counterparts, essentially denying resources to minority communities. Discriminatory lending practices based on these redline maps began to decline with the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which made discrimination in housing illegal, and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975 required transparency in loan practices.
Exceptional North Charlotte
North Charlotte’s history with redlining is different from many other redlined neighborhoods across the country; its D rating seems to be less about racial discrimination and more about the preponderance of low-income residents surrounded by industry. NoDa (D-1 on the HOLC map) is included with part of current day Villa Heights and other surrounding neighborhoods, so the Charlotte map D-1 area does not exactly correspond to what we consider NoDa today. The 1937 HOLC map notes a population in D-1 of factory workers and laborers with many being categorized as “relief” families. The area was predicted to be “trending downward” in the following 10-15 years. While most of the other D neighborhoods in Charlotte were between 60 and 100 percent African-American, North Charlotte was 5 percent. No “foreign born” residents were noted.
North Charlotte’s “detrimental influences” listed are more related to the proliferation of laborers and the industrial uses of the area at the time, as stated here:
Encroachment of industrial development, cotton mills in area, railroad on west side and adjoining it is Swift Refining Co. and many other warehouses and industrial plants.
The Swift Refining Company referenced appears to be a cottonseed oil refining company, which had multiple locations nationwide. This seems to fit with the history of textile mills in the area and related availability of cottonseeds.
What does this mean for Charlotte and NoDa today?
The HOLC maps were used by government and private sector businesses for decades. Disinvestment in redline communities took a significant long-term toll, affecting everything from racial disparities to educational attainment to health indicators to homeownership rates. Eventually, federal legislation, local planning efforts, and grant money for projects in disadvantaged neighborhoods began to attempt to undo the damage.
Many of the industrial employers in the neighborhood have gone, and many of the residents who lived in North Charlotte at the peak of their influence have moved away. A new generation, which came of age after redlining practices were deemed illegal, have effectively turned over much of NoDa. If you’ve bought or sold property here recently, you know we are no longer considered a risky investment. The history of redlining of HOLC map’s neighborhood D-1 and its unique experience with that is important to understanding how NoDa became what it is today.