Modern-day redlining in Dallasdfwnewsa | November 13, 2022 | 0 | Dallas News
By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
Historically, the city of Dallas has been divided with economic opportunities mostly available to communities north of I-30. It has been this way since in 1937 when the city’s governing body designated certain areas in South Dallas as red zones and unsafe for investment, thus creating the term “redlining.”
Modern day redlining has continued today according to a recent report from WFAA’s investigative producer and journalist Jason Trahan. The reporter revealed that 20% of banks in Dallas refuse loans to minority communities who live south of I-30 in his video series called Banking Below 30.
In order to help the city move forward and provide opportunities for all, the Dallas Media Collaborative and Big D Reads hosted Modern-Day Redlining in Dallas: Investigation, Conversation and Where Do We Go from Here? a conversation at the Communities Foundation of Texas Community Room in North Dallas, Oct. 19.
Trahan discussed his research and findings along with journalist and author Jim Schutze, who wrote The Accommodation, a book about the history of politics and race in mid-century Dallas; SMU professor Barbara Minsker, whose research has focused on infrastructure deserts in major cities, identifing 62 infrastructure deserts in Dallas tied to the history of redlining; and James McGee, president of Southern Dallas Progress, an organization that works to empower, enable and support efforts to revitalize Southern Dallas communities.
Dr. Reo Pruiett, CFT chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, said the goal of this conversation was to prioritize advancing community equity.
“We’re striving for a community where everyone has equitable opportunities to thrive,” Pruiett said. Economically, each of our neighbors deserve opportunities to build their credit, have reliable transportation, have a living wage and grow their assets. Right now, these opportunities are not available to everyone. And here in North Texas, the neighborhood you live in continues to be an indicator of your economic future. That’s not fair. Redlining is a practice and what the data shows is the results of those practices, and how this is still negatively affecting our communities, even today.”
Trahan and his team at Channel 8 decided to analyze how the government was giving out loans during the COVID-19 pandemic when several businesses were shut down.
“We started to do the research on that and found out that the COVID loans, Paycheck Protection Program loans were all going to North Dallas,” Trahan said. “This included nonprofits in the North that were receiving all the loans. So it became a thing. And we said, well, you know, what about home loans? Where are those going? And so that’s kind of what led to months of reporting.”
The series aired in November 2020.
History of redlining
“Interstate 30 – so many people drive east, west, north and south of it, and you might not even realize how it carves Dallas into I-30, but it is also the line that largely separates financial opportunity in the North from financial barriers in the South,” he said. “Why is that? Well, we have found new evidence of practices that exclude Black and Hispanic residents from getting bank loans below 30.”
In his investigative piece, Trahan noted that south of 30 is mostly Black and Hispanic people, with 38% of residents living below the poverty line.
When he traveled North, specifically on the intersection of the Dallas North Tollway and Northwest Highway, he ran into one bank after the other, sometimes finding around 31 bank branches packed into a certain corner in North Dallas. While in all of Southern Dallas there are just 58 bank branches in total. Across Dallas County, there are 474 bank branches. His investigation also found that the city has a long history of excluding Blacks from bank loans.
It’s called redlining.
He displayed a map from 1937 with red lines drawn around the Southside communities.
“For decades, banks openly denied loans here, particularly to Black communities, and the government said it was okay,” Trahan stated. “Then in 1977, Congress attempted to remedy the practice of redlining. With the Community Reinvestment Act – CRA encourages banks to meet the credit needs of the entire community where they operate. Under the CRA each bank draws an assessment area map, which basically outlines where it does business. And the law says a map must contain entire counties, cities or towns. And it cannot arbitrarily exclude low- or moderate-income geographies.
But the CRA recognizes some banks might not be able to serve an entire community. And in that case, they could use something like a highway to draw a boundary as long as that new map does not illegally discriminate. So our team asked every bank in Dallas County, 105 of them, to provide us with their assessment area maps of the area where they do business. What we found is that 20% of the banks in Dallas County draw maps that exclude all or parts of Southern Dallas.”
Basics of infrastructure
Minsker then provided her report showing another kind of redlining in South Dallas.
“So in our study, we took a look at neighborhood infrastructure, basic things that we count on in our neighborhoods such as crosswalks, sidewalks and access to medical facilities, trails, bus stops,” Minsker said. “And we wanted to know, when we start to look at neighborhoods, do we see places that actually were infrastructure deserts, and nobody had looked at it. But I had heard the stories since I moved here in Dallas six years ago from Sidney Lutz from Habitat for Humanity. At that time, she took me on a tour of a low-income neighborhood in Dallas, and while we were driving, she was telling me stories about the challenges Habitat has with building affordable homes because the infrastructure isn’t there. We also wanted to see the role of race and ethnicity in this phenomenon if it did exist, and was there a legacy from redlining?”
Minsker and her research team studied 12 different kinds of neighborhood infrastructure and discovered there were a total of 62 infrastructure deserts in Dallas.
“Most of them are in Southern Dallas below 30,” she summarized. “And the worst infrastructure was actually a tree canopy providing shade of the streets. We probably all felt that this summer, sidewalks were next and noise walls. So 100% of the neighborhoods that were infrastructure deserts were deficient in these three types of infrastructure.”
She further broke down the deficiencies in the neighborhoods by race and found out that the range is two to five times more likely to have deficient infrastructure in predominantly Black neighborhoods than in predominantly White neighborhoods.
“When we’re looking at predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, we also see inequities, and here it is 1.5 to three times more likely to have highly deficient infrastructure,” she said. “And then, when we look at neighborhoods that have no predominant race or ethnicity, the predominantly White neighborhoods are actually less likely to have deficient infrastructure than the neighborhoods that don’t have a predominant race or ethnicity.”
Minsker also made comparison of Dallas to the largest three U.S. cities: Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, along with its infrastructure deserts over the last several years. She discovered that, while Dallas has the most inequity of all four cities, it also has the worst infrastructure of the four cities.
Minsker said these issues are important because of people’s safety.
“In summers like here in Texas, when some people don’t have air conditioning, people are much more likely to die in the summer if they don’t have trees for shade. And the Texas trees foundation said that there would be a 20% reduction in residential deaths if we planted trees in the hottest areas of the city, which tend to be lower income areas that have low pavement, and they have fewer trees,” Minsker said.
“The other issue is the economic barriers to developments, whether it’s high income or low income. I took my class on a field trip down to a neighborhood in South Dallas. And they’re building a tiny house village. They told us they had a 11-month delay in getting that project built while they were waiting for a water line to get connected to it. And we saw vacant lots down there, where you would have water and sewer here and you would have water and sewer over here and in between there was none. So that vacant lot is essentially worthless, because it costs too much to put the infrastructure in for what you could build on that lot. So the only way you can pay for infrastructure is to have a huge development, which if you’re building affordable housing probably isn’t huge development.”
Minsker also noted and didn’t understand why the city would not take care of its most basic needs in certain neighborhoods.
“In Dallas, we really like iconic infrastructure. We’d like to build really big things,” she said, pointing out that the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge cost the city $180 million.
“We can find the money for that, but we can’t find the money to paint all the faded crosswalks across the entire city row and that costs $1.2 million,” she continued. “That’s a pretty small amount for that safety.”
Minsker concluded that in her findings, Dallas is really not a thriving city if the entire community is not thriving – including South Dallas.
Afterward, Schutze discussed his book and works as a journalist, exploring the violence and suppressed history of race and racism in Dallas, from slavery through the Civil Rights era and the city’s efforts to desegregate in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
The panelists noted that Schutze’s book showcased the fight that continues for equality and that redlining is still with us today.
“This debate is going on in the Dallas Independent School District School Board right now,” Schutze said. “The clearest reproduction of the 1930’s and 1940’s redlining maps that you can find in today’s city today are the school attendance zones. I was a columnist for the city for almost 40 years, I tried like hell to shame those people. The book’s meaning is simply giving a starting point, saying, okay, this is where this stuff started. This is how it was done, how it was maintained. And then you go to things like this brilliant work of professor Minsker has done, which was the data and putting it right on the table, today’s picture, the outcomes of those policies are still with us. And then I think it’s important to remember that the action has still been the fight over school attendance zones. And you’re gonna see those red line maps come to life.”
McGee ended the presentation by discussing how he has worked with the city of Dallas to address equity issues in South Dallas and also worked with banks to see how they can be more equitable to everyone.
“I had meetings with different groups in the city and they did a whole three-hour workshop on this,” McGee said. “And they asked every department that was related to these types of infrastructure to stand up and say what they were doing about these issues that we have found. So they were very responsive.
“We talked quite a bit with the bond office that was planning the next bond. And they’re trying to figure out how do we bring equity in as a measure because it’s always been based on performance, the place of the worst pavement because the money doesn’t matter if there’s a worse pavement, and so they get it. The question is, is the money there and how much do you favor the Southern Dallas investment and ignore the Northern Dallas and let that go?”