Louisville Magazine

MAR 2017

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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60 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.17 some doctor's name on it and we said she wouldn't have another kid." (Bottoms says the woman did end up having another child years later.) Many in the room detail a resistance, a way around barriers to homeownership. Mammoth Insurance Company and Domestic Life and Accident Insurance Company, both black-owned businesses on lively Walnut Street (then dubbed "Lou- isville's Harlem" and now Muhammad Ali Boulevard), provided home insurance. "ey (also) held a lot of loans for people's houses," Bottoms says. "People may not realize that, but they were the mortgage holders on a lot of the houses." Officially, redlining ended in 1951. But a few years later, Louisville, and many other cities, would participate in urban re- newal. Its nickname in black communities —negro removal — strips any euphemism. Walnut Street, the beloved strip of movie theaters, nightclubs, shops and banks, was torn down. Many businesses that couldn't afford to relocate closed. "What came next?" Bottoms asks rhetorically. "ey called it block busting?" In the early '60s, as thousands of whites fled west Louisville for suburbs in the east and south, realtors often pressured white families to move if just one black family moved in, convinc- ing whites their property values would go down. Bottoms recalls one instance when her father drove by a home for sale that clients of his might have been interested in. When he saw it was a white family selling the home, he drove on, fairly confident that the white family who had listed the home was mad at a neighbor and, as pay- back, was trying to get a black family to move in. Some concerned citizens — both black and white — formed the West End Community Council in an effort to curb white flight. It didn't work. I ask the group for their thoughts on redlining's lasting effects. Most look to Hamilton for her take. She pauses. "It's more than redlining," she says. "I see the disinvestment. When people left, they took their dollars with them. ey took their businesses with them. Jobs left — Philip Morris and National Tobacco. en, there were no jobs. It just got rougher." Hamilton's big crusade as councilwoman for the last few years has been combatting absentee landlords and unregulated half- way houses. She remembers her Westover neighborhood as quaint — everyone knew each other, lawns were manicured and flowers blossomed in the spring. "Not fake flowers," she says, flatly. Hamilton wants that back for all of west Louisville. As the sun sets over the Ohio River less than half a mile away, pink light creeps into the blue sky. e group will splinter and head home soon. But first McCrary talks about friends of hers who wanted to move to west Louisville. "Her bank didn't want her to mortgage in the West End," she says. "She got approved for Shively." "ey'll steer you away from the West End," Hamilton says. I ask for clarifica- tion. Realtors? Lenders? Recruiters? Many in the room just nod. Anecdotes can be flimsy. So I Google "redlining" and "lawsuit." ere's a lot of proof that housing discrimination is alive. In 1997, a Louisville-based insurance agent with Nationwide Insurance Compa- ny claimed Nationwide's managers would not allow him to write policies in Louis- ville's predominantly black West End, pro- viding him with a map of the city that had a red-ink circle around west Louisville and an X through it. J. Bruce Miller represent- ed the agent and, due to a nondisclosure agreement, can't detail how the suit was settled, but Miller says the agent received a "substantial settlement." e agent had quit before filing the suit and took the map with him. Once Nationwide realized that, Miller says, "the proverbial stuff hit the fan." More recently, in January, the U.S. De- partment of Justice filed a lawsuit against a Minnesota bank that allegedly avoided serving individuals seeking mortgage loans in minority-heavy census tracts. In 2015, the Department of Housing and Urban Development settled with the largest bank in Wisconsin over claims it discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers throughout the Midwest from 2008-2010. And data from the Home Mortgage Dis- closure Act shows that in Jefferson County in 2014, 29 percent of African-Americans who applied for a mortgage were denied versus 18 percent of white applicants. ere are also legal cases related to inflated insurance rates for minorities throughout the country. ose in the insurance in- dustry will maintain they don't care about race but, in the case of housing-insurance policies, take into account factors like the age of a home, its condition and crime in the area. Mortgage lenders would echo that in some shape or form. e Fair Housing Act of 1968 was creat- ed to put an end to preferential treatment. And it helped. But Poe argues that redlin- ing's legacy endures. Banks and businesses don't want to lose money, so they size up communities. "e fair-housing laws were really ineffectual because it became a part of the structure," Poe says. "It became part of the design." Last month when the city announced the redlining project before television cameras and social-justice advocates, Jeana Dunlap, the director of the Office of Redevelopment Strategies, encouraged Louisvillians to take a look at the maps, to wrestle with the uncomfortable a bit. Struggling neighborhoods, Dunlap said, didn't just suffer from bad luck. "Today is an opportunity to begin talking openly about many of the systematic and institu- tional challenges faced by everyday people trying to get ahead," Dunlap said. "Some of our neighborhoods need basic services or amenities that may be taken for granted in other areas of town." After her presentation, a man in the au- dience asked, "What actions might result from this?" At first, Dunlap's answer unraveled in bureaucratic order, with talk of looking for best practices in other cities and wanting to engage the community. en she shifted. "No, I don't have an answer to that question," she said. "And that's exactly why the dialogue is so desperately needed." To look at Josh Poe's redlining project or to learn more about the city's series of communi- ty meetings about redlining, visit: louisvilleky. gov/government/redevelopment-strategies and click on "Redlining Community Dialogue." In 1997, a Louisville-based insurance agent with Nationwide Insurance Company claimed Nationwide's managers would not allow him to write policies in Louisville's predominantly black West End, providing him with a map of the city that had a red- ink circle around west Louisville and an X through it.

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