Walking on hot day
(Photo credit: Guian Bolisay / Flickr)

For decades, many banks refused loans to people buying homes in certain urban neighborhoods. The lenders claimed the loans were too risky, but that assessment was heavily influenced by the race of residents.

This practice is called redlining, and it left lasting damage in many communities. It reduced individual wealth, homeownership, and investment in schools and transportation. And recent research shows that formerly redlined areas are also more vulnerable to extreme heat.

Jeremy Hoffman of the Science Museum of Virginia says these neighborhoods tend to have fewer shade trees and more pavement, making them hotter.

“Nationally, it ends up being about 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer on average during the summer in these formerly redlined areas than in their non-redlined neighbors,” he says.

The problem will get worse as the climate warms. So Hoffman says to protect residents’ health, it’s important to find immediate solutions like building shade structures at bus stops. Planting trees and adding parks could also help cool neighborhoods in the longterm.

Hoffman says it means reimagining with the help of the communities that were redlined. “What’s their vision for what their community looks like in the next 10, 20, 30 years?”

Also see: Hottest places in a city are often low-income neighborhoods

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...