Legacies of the Residential Security Maps

In the 1930's, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation developed appraisal techniques—which rationalized and supported racial and economic segregationand applied those techniques to construct "Residential Security Maps" of over 200 cities nationwide.  While the maps themselves were not widely circulated, the appraisal techniques were published in the Federal Home Loan Bank Review. The Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the parent organization of the HOLC, endorsed and encouraged these appraisal techniques. The actions of these government agencies in the late 1930's created long-term negative conceptions of integrated neighborhoods and undermined the stability and prosperity of impoverished and African-American communities. Neighborhood appraisals had lasting and persistent impacts on the social geography of Pittsburgh as more positive conditions were concentrated in green and blue areas and more negative conditions were concentrated in red and yellow areas.


Legacies for Red and Yellow Areas

Persistently Black Tracts

Communities of Color

Pittsburgh neighborhoods with persistently the largest portions of Black residents from 1970 to 2000 were entirely located areas that were historically considered as dangerous to investment. These areas were financially undercut and suffer, for reasons not limited to the historic appraisal, from stigma as being bad neighborhoods. Perceptions of these communities as unstable, baseless or not, are at least partially derived from their historic devaluation by the real estate industry and the government.

Persistently Poor Tracts

Poor Communities

Those neighborhoods with the persistently highest concentrations of poverty were focused in areas that were historically undermined by neighborhood appraisal techniques. This system created financial incentives for homebuyers to only live with people of a similar class as them. Those left behind in redlined communities were limited to a dysfunctional housing market and had few options but to rent, leaving them more vulnerable to slumlords with no financial incentive to maintain the quality of the property.

Legacies for Green and Blue Areas

Persistently Rich Tracts

High Incomes

Neighborhoods with the highest average incomes in 1937, had their status maintained through to 2000. Once a neighborhood had established its reputation as a destination and a stable community, the status was preserved through time. These communities did not experience a boom then bust, nor even a steady decline.

Persistently Wealthy Tracts

High Value

Unsurprisingly, many of the tracts with the highest average incomes also had the highest average home values during the same period of 1970 to 2000. This upper tier of housing benefited from historic access to lending and maintained that financial value into modern times. Even today, only seven neighborhoods receive 50% of the mortgage lending volume in Pittsburgh and six of these seven were historically considered to be healthy for investment.