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Housing discrimination prohibited by federal civil rights law

Redlining can be a serious concern for people looking for housing in Michigan and across the United States. Part of a racialized system of discrimination and housing segregation, the term is used to refer to the denial of financial services or mortgages to people in designated neighborhoods. Through the 1970s, redlining was a major factor in housing discrimination throughout the United States, and many argue that forms of redlining continue to persist to the present day in more subtle forms. Redlining has affected people’s ability to get a mortgage, a loan or insurance, and it overwhelmingly impacts poor neighborhoods and those that are primarily composed of people of color.

In the classic version of redlining, banks would draw literal red lines on maps, designating neighborhoods where they would not function. This meant that white communities had access to resources and funds while people in redlined neighborhoods were denied the ability to get mortgages and small business loans, regardless of their own financial fitness.

The practice of redlining was banned by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and later laws required lenders to assess mortgage applicants on an individual basis regardless of their neighborhood. However, many advocates argue that redlining persists in ongoing practices. For example, a bank’s refusal to open branches in certain areas pushes consumers in those areas to alternative financial services like check-cashing stores or prepaid debit cards. People also continue to report being unable to insure properties in particular neighborhoods.

Redlining is only one of the housing discrimination practices prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. In addition to prohibiting racial and other forms of discrimination in housing, it also works with the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect housing rights for people with disabilities. People who have faced discrimination in housing may be able to work with a civil rights lawyer to pursue their claim for justice and accountability.