Breaking the Chains: Overcoming Redlining in Charlotte and Beyond 

By: Derik Hicks

Have you ever driven through a city and noticed a dramatic change in neighborhoods just within a few blocks? Maybe you crossed a railroad track or highway and suddenly you felt the urge to double check that your car doors are locked. You drove from riches to rags in a blink of an eye.  

Or maybe you are a minority and you are hitting one roadblock after another in trying to be a homeowner or landowner in an influential neighborhood. Why do these things happen? 

Although Charlotte, North Carolina, is known for its perfect blend of Southern charm and modern sophistication, with a budding skyline, bustling streets, and lively arts and culture scene, the Queen City is not exempt from the “other side of the tracks” syndrome. As the city of Charlotte continues to grow and prosper, it’s essential to shine a light on the shadows that linger from a darker chapter in our history: redlining. What is redlining? Where did it originate? How does redlining affect you and I today? What can be done to undo its effect? First, let’s define “redlining.” 

What is redlining? 

Redlining refers to the practice of systematically denying various financial services (e.g., credit access, loans, insurance) to residents of specific neighborhoods, often based on their racial or ethnic composition and primarily within urban communities.* Redlining has left a lasting impact on communities of color in Charlotte and statewide. 

History of redlining 

To truly understand the plight of underprivileged minorities facing redlining, we must delve into the historical roots of this discriminatory practice. During the 1930s, the federal government created the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) to provide mortgage assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure during the Great Depression. As part of this program, HOLC created Residential Security Maps, also known as “redlining maps,” to assess the riskiness of lending in various neighborhoods. These maps classified neighborhoods into four categories (A, B, C, and D) based on perceived creditworthiness, with Category A being the most desirable and Category D the least desirable. Can you guess which neighborhoods received the most desirable and least desirable classifications? 

In Charlotte, as in many other cities, neighborhoods with predominantly white residents, particularly those in the suburbs, were typically designated as more desirable (Categories A and B), while neighborhoods with predominantly Black or minority residents were often labeled as risky (Categories C and D). This categorization was based not on the economic viability of the neighborhoods but on racial demographics, leading to the systematic denial of loans and investment to Black communities, effectively shutting the residents out from access to the “American Dream” of homeownership. Neighborhoods like Brooklyn, Biddleville, and Belmont faced the brunt of discriminatory lending practices.  

Effects of redlining today 

Even today, the legacy of redlining looms large over underserved communities, manifesting in disinvestment, dilapidated infrastructure, and limited economic opportunities. According to the National Library of Medicine, redlining continues to affect the overall health of the disenfranchised residents of those communities. A prime example of this is the systematic closure of hospitals across historically redlined communities.**  

The impact of redlining extends beyond mere numbers and statistics; it’s about the lived experiences of individuals and families striving for a better future. Redlining disproportionately affected minorities, particularly Black and Latinx individuals, facing barriers to homeownership and wealth accumulation. According to data from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Black mortgage applicants in Charlotte are denied loans at a rate more than twice that of white applicants, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and marginalization.*** 

How to combat redlining 

So, what can be done to combat redlining and uplift underprivileged minorities in Charlotte and beyond? First and foremost, we must raise awareness about the insidious nature of redlining and its enduring impact on communities of color. Education is key to dismantling systemic barriers and fostering a culture of equity and inclusion in the real estate industry. 

Additionally, legislation that promotes fair lending practices and holds financial institutions accountable for discriminatory behavior must be enacted and enforced. This includes measures to increase transparency in lending decisions, provide greater oversight of lending practices, and allocate resources to support community development initiatives in historically redlined neighborhoods. 

But amidst the challenges posed by redlining, there is hope on the horizon. Organizations like ASCENSION, a startup nonprofit based around construction and real estate, are working tirelessly to dismantle the barriers that prevent underprivileged minorities from achieving homeownership. They are on a mission to empower marginalized communities through education, advocacy, and access to resources. Perhaps this can play a vital role in bridging the gap between underprivileged minorities and homeownership and help empower individuals to take control of their financial futures and break free from the chains of redlining. 

Sadly, redlining remains a stark reminder of the deep-rooted inequalities that persist in our society. It’s time to break down the barriers that divide us and build a brighter tomorrow, brick by brick. 

About Ascension (a non-profit organization)

Welcome to Ascension, where we’re dedicated to transforming the landscape of homeownership in Charlotte, NC. Founded by the visionary James Scruggs of Kingdom Development Partners, and in partnership with Hugh McColl Jr, Ascension is driven by a singular mission: to create vibrant communities and unlock the doors to homeownership for all. With a deep commitment to inclusive growth and community empowerment, we’re here to share our journey of making a meaningful difference, one community at a time. 

Ascension represents a beacon of visionary leadership and community-focused development. that is dedicated to catalyzing impactful public-private partnerships. These collaborations are instrumental in shaping projects, policies, and programs that drive neighborhood revitalization and foster community metamorphosis. With Scruggs’ extensive experience in real estate development, construction, and investment, Ascension is poised to revolutionize the accessibility of homeownership and wealth creation for moderate incoming earning families and individuals from underrepresented communities.

For more information:

*Rothstein R. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America. New York, NY: Liveright Publishing Corporation; 2017.