My current project, Reckoning with Redlines: Racism, Housing Finance, and the Boundaries of Rehabilitation, investigates resident efforts to increase mortgage lending in urban neighborhoods in St. Louis, MO, and their engagement with the concept of redlining—a term for racially and geographically discriminatory lending practices. Through residential rehabilitation programs, I explore the growing local and later national understandings of the problem of “redlining,” that is, racially and geographically discriminatory lending practices. While my work benefits from a rich historiography on the role of the federal government in promoting redlining in the housing market following the New Deal, I instead historicize the how anti-redlining activists understood the government’s role in creating a discriminatory lending climate in the 1970s. During this time, activists were able to push federal legislators and the Home Loan Bank Board to address redlining through the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975 and programs like Neighborhood Housing Services. I demonstrate government-aided rehabilitation initiatives that promoted “self-help” and relied on resident negotiations with local savings and loans actually served to undercut these anti-redlining victories, and limited the federal government’s ability to address geographic or racial discrimination in lending. Instead, these policies and programs shifted the conversation away from the government’s role in the housing market and towards an understanding of urban inequality or “gentrification” as the cultural product of individual “yuppies” with a growing interest in the city.

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