A number of neighborhoods in Fort Worth, including this one along East Lancaster Avenue, were once "redlined" on government maps and considered a financial risk for home loans. (Sandra Sadek | Fort Worth Report)

For those living along Fort Worth’s East Lancaster Avenue in the 1940s, chances of getting a bank loan to purchase a home would have been near impossible for many Black Americans. 

That’s because lending institutions used government-designed maps that ranked the loan worthiness of neighborhoods based on their financial risk. Black and brown neighborhoods were often discriminated against, leaving residents with fewer housing options. 

This practice was known as redlining

Although the discriminatory practice was banned in 1968, its impact on housing opportunities for some can still be seen today. The city of Fort Worth is hoping to bring to light the historical and long-lasting role redlining had on Fort Worth’s housing market with a new, free exhibit. 

Titled “The Practice of Democracy: Advancing Fair and Affordable Housing in Fort Worth,” the exhibit will run June 2 through July 29 at the BNSF Gallery of the Fort Worth Community Arts Center at 1300 Gendy Street. 

“We are very cognizant of the fact that Fort Worth is growing exponentially and we have a really rare opportunity as a large city closing in on a million residents to really make sure that the planning in future land use as it pertains to housing and economic development are all working together to establish what Fort Worth will look like in the future,” said Christina Brooks, director of diversity and inclusion for the city. 

The exhibit is timely, as the city of Fort Worth and other cities across the country are having conversations about neighborhood strategy and affordable housing, said Victor Turner, Fort Worth’s director of neighborhood services. The city is currently revising its five-year Consolidated Plan while also working on a Strategic Housing Plan

Like many cities across the country, Fort Worth relied on redlining maps to determine which neighborhoods could receive home loans and mortgages.

Following the Great Depression, the U.S. government created a housing program that ranked neighborhoods “A through D” to determine whether it was worthy of a home loan. 

Neighborhoods graded “A” and green-colored were the most attractive to banks because they were “ethnically homogeneous” (white,) U.S. born and upper- or middle-class. 

Neighborhoods graded “D” and red-colored were considered hazardous and often applied to areas where Black, Mexican, Asian, Jewish or other groups lived. This is where the term redlining comes from.

Although the Fair Housing Act of 1968 banned the process, the repercussions of these maps can still be felt today, said Angela Rush, civil rights enforcement assistant director.

“You can see where there has been a lack of investment,” Rush said. “We’re really trying to make a concerted effort to address that with our neighborhood improvement strategies and such, but it’s a big task to overcome those 80 years of history that we have to tackle.”

The city hopes to engage proactive conversations among residents and developers, chambers of commerce and real estate organizations to help tackle the affordable housing crisis. 

Other places like Dallas, New York City and Columbus have hosted redlining exhibitions exploring these topics. 

“It’s really important for us to learn lessons from our past so that we can be proactive in identifying what were the conditions on the ground that produced those kinds of policy decisions back in the early years of Fort Worth,” Brooks said. “How can we produce better language and also, strategically, look at future land use and zoning as it is right now to make sure that we’re producing these kind of vibrant pockets of neighborhoods across the city.”

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at sandra.sadek@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter at @ssadek19.

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Sandra SadekBusiness Reporter

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Houston, she graduated from Texas State University where she studied journalism and international...