Side Project: Mapping Housing Restrictions in Raleigh

Today, I’m sharing a project that I’m trying to kickstart on the side. Right now, the project is in the early phases and I’m trying to raise awareness, possibly recruit help here as there are multiple aspects.

I gave a lightning talk about the project which I have embedded above. I’d like to use this thread to start conversations about it.

Any constructive ideas, help would be greatly appreciated!

A little bit more on the blog.


you do know that most of the “African american” neighborhoods (not all) were white before they were black so how can you claim they are somehow “owned” by black people?

most of east Raleigh, especially north of New Bern were predominantly white.

certainly there are neighborhoods that were historically black but if those folks are willing to sell their homes at a significant profit, why fault them? or worse, somehow blame the people who want to buy their homes?


you do know that most of the “African american” neighborhoods (not all) were white before they were black so how can you claim they are somehow “owned” by black people?

Most black neighborhoods nationwide became black neighborhoods because of explicitly racist policy, not because black people moved there by choice. When black people began moving into neighborhoods, white folks fled because they did not want to live in the same neighborhoods as minorities. See the history of white flight and the practice of blockbusting.

This is the crucial distinction you are not making – never in the history of America have white people been unable to buy property anywhere they’ve wanted specifically because of their race. Meanwhile, people of color have faced institutional barriers throughout most of this country’s history that led to segregated neighborhoods. Racial covenants were extremely common around the country, for example the below images of deeds in Minneapolis that explicitly mandated that nonwhite people could not live in those premises.


And while these became illegal about 70 years ago, racial covenants were only one small part of the whole – New Deal-era government supported the system of covenants, giving neighborhoods with racial restrictions the best credit ratings, and areas in which people of color were forced to reside worse ones, enacting barriers against lending and home ownership in those neighborhoods. This practice of Redlining had a huge part in shaping the racial makeup of neighborhoods locally; see the below map of Durham’s redlined neighborhoods (which, by the way – has a strong correlation to neighborhoods that were decimated by urban renewal, and many other metrics of inequity, even down to the percentage of tree cover that exists in redlined neighborhoods today).

Admittedly, I do not know much about Raleigh’s history in this regard, but the below quote makes some interesting observations about how segregation manifested in Raleigh.

while there was no redlining in Raleigh (per se), the city found ways to concentrate its nonwhite, non-wealthy citizens—e.g., by locating the segregated Black schools near a quarry and a landfill and declaring that Black students wouldn’t be bussed elsewhere. Until the late sixties, many Black residents were denied access to mortgages. Investors bought single-family homes in Black neighborhoods and split them into multiple units to make more money. By the nineties, these neighborhoods were among the only places in town that would accept Section 8 vouchers or rent to people with poor credit or who had been previously jailed.

So, when we talk about gentrification, it is not from the perspective of wanting to continue racial segregation. Absolutely not. What people want is a recognition of this history, an awareness from the perspective that none of this happened in a vacuum. And while gentrification will always occur within the current market system, if we remain aware of this history, we can advocate for policy that aims to counteract some of the displacement of populations that have been historically marginalized.

To enact legislation for centuries that prevented minorities from living anywhere but these neighborhoods, to neglect investment in these same neighborhoods for decades when they were deemed undesirable because they were inhabited by minorities, and to then suggest that we are suddenly NOW making this a racial issue when it has always been one is not only unjust, but also ahistorical.


Perfect topic to compliment this thread!

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We need to realize that there are two things that were at play at the same time for decades as Raleigh grew: 1) covenants that precluded minorities from living in neighborhoods, 2) redlining lending practices that precluded obtaining a mortgage in areas where black residents could live. Of course, where a lender would lend would just happen to be the places where (by covenant) white people lived.
If you were black and could qualify for a mortgage, you were often shut out of options by covenants. If you lived in a neighborhood without such covenants, you were less likely to be able to get a mortgage from a bank due their mapping process. So, what was created were minority majority neighborhoods of renters who paid for the property through rent, but had no mechanism to build wealth through generational home ownership. Over time, renters converted to homeowners for some, while others remained renters at the whims of their landlords.
Clearly, the majority minority residents of these areas historically had little political influence over what happened to them. This is the injustice that needs to be rectified.