Aug 8, 2022 - News

Struggles continue in Des Moines' redlined district

Des Moines redlining district
Des Moines' redlining map. Photo via Polk County Housing Trust Fund

Households in Des Moines' historic redlining district are some of the most likely to face insecurity and seek help from a food pantry, according to a new report by the Des Moines Area Religious Council.

Why it matters: The redlined neighborhoods that lacked investment 90 years ago — many of which are on the city's south and east sides — are still suffering from economic instability and lower home ownership rates, according to DMARC.

  • For example: Some of the homes at the highest risk for flooding are in the redline district because their foundations are falling apart and they lacked home aid decades ago.

Get smart: After the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt gave aid to Americans who wanted to buy homes by offering federal-backed loans and guaranteeing mortgages.

  • Maps were drawn to exclude Black families from the aid. Neighborhoods that were deemed a "high risk" for lending would be categorized as C or D districts. That designation could occur if just one Black family lived there as well.
Chart for food pantry visitors in redline district
A demographic breakdown of the percent of food pantry visitors who live in a C or D district. Chart courtesy of DMARC

Zoom in: Out of all the food pantry users in the Des Moines metro, about 43% of them live in a former C or D district, said Luke Elzinga, spokesperson for DMARC.

  • People of color are also more likely to live in those areas and seek food assistance.
  • 55% of multi-race Hispanic families that visited DMARC's food pantries lived in one of those districts compared to just 38% of white food pantry users.

The big picture: Solving food insecurity requires a holistic approach, Elzinga said. Factors like improving affordable housing options and childcare factor into economic stability.

  • DMARC plans on further researching what's happening today in Des Moines' redline districts.
  • "I don't think it's enough to just say, 'Hey, look, there's these disparities,' but helping people understand how we got here," Elzinga said.
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