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  • Writer's pictureJesse Ledbetter

Redlining Richmond - Trying to reverse 250 years of racism is hard.

This is a part of the series "Redlining Richmond" posted here over the last year. After the Civil War localities in the North and South engaged in published and public racism to keep descendants of enslaved Africans and other minorities impoverished. This. is. a. well-documented. and. studied. fact.

Various areas have attempted to correct for this in different ways. The City of Richmond's effort to increase home values in Church Hill, a historically redlined area, while "successful"precipitously also shows the difficulty of correcting this national sin.

In Church Hill, Richmond offered large tax incentives (tax rate locks) for those who would improve their homes. In the late 1990's this area was predominantly minority. This area which had suffered under 100 years of discrimination had lower incomes, lower access to quality education and higher crime rates as a result (as has been seen nationwide to be the predominant causal link). So what happens when a municipality offers people without money low taxes if they spend money to improve their homes?

That's right, there is no disposable income to spend to take advantage of the new incentive. So, people with money from outside of the community see the incentive as a positive selling point and choose to invest, by purchasing these homes at a small new premium. These homes are then renovated above the old median home value that the market could afford, drawing buyers who are not from this area who can afford the new price level.

But it gets worse. Those who chose not to sell watch their assessment begin to rise with the neighborhood (because they couldn't lock in the low tax level) and now begin to be priced out of the market based on taxes, being forced to sell... to the people with money.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. For 20 years.

What do we see now? According to a VCU study in 2016 the population of African Americans in the area has dropped precipitously. Did this policy accomplish a positive impact on those affected by 250 years of racism?

No. It transferred wealth to caucasians far more than it reversed the trend of wealth theft in Richmond Virginia. Its important to note this failure as America continues to attempt to pay for her past and current racial sins.

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