116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids real estate agent Tonyamarie Adams was turned down by eight banks when she tried to purchase a home in northeast Cedar Rapids.
Adams, a Black woman, said she was redlined, a form of lending discrimination that technically has been outlawed for decades but continues to create racial disparity in homeownership.
The practice of redlining started in the 1930s, with banks denying mortgages mostly to people of color, preventing them from buying a home in certain neighborhoods.
Today, historically redlined neighborhoods are connected to a variety of poor health conditions, lower life expectancy, police brutality, less access to healthy food, retail depression and gentrification.
About 30 percent of Black people in Iowa own their homes compared to 75 percent of white people.
The discussion was part of a virtual panel Monday titled “Red Lined and Sidelined: Histories of Housing — Hoping for Home.” It was hosted at the African American Museum of Iowa, in Cedar Rapids, for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Red Lined and Side Lined: Histories of Housing - Hoping for Home
Red Lined and Side Lined: Histories of Housing - Hoping for HomePosted by St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Cedar Rapids on Monday, January 17, 2022
Adams urged Black Iowans to educate themselves about their options to becoming homeowners, including seeking grant opportunities.
“Each one can reach one,” Adams said, encouraging community members to mentor younger people and teach them how to become homeowners.
The panel was moderated by Anne Harris Carter, daughter of the late Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris. Dr. Percy Harris was the first Black physician in Cedar Rapids and Linn County medical examiner for almost 40 years. Lileah Harris was an advocate of lifelong learning and education.
Panelists include Tonyamarie Adams, Cedar Rapids real estate agent and neighborhood building assistant at Matthew 25; Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz; Betty Johnson, community volunteer and First Light Christian Fellowship member; and Clint Twedt-Ball, executive director of Matthew 25.
The panel coincides with an exhibit at the African American Museum of “Mapping Exclusion: Redlining in Iowa.” The exhibit will be on display until Aug. 6.
Betty Johnson, too, spoke about her experiences with redlining. As a Black woman buying her first house in the 1960s, she and her husband were taken to a “certain district” by their real estate agent and told it was the best they could do.
“When I think about the interest rate we paid, it still angers me,” Johnson said. “We worked on that home, and we were really proud. When we cane to the point of selling we couldn’t make our money back, so we sold it for a whole lot less than what we bought it for.”
Houses that are essentially the same with the exception of one being in a majority Black neighborhood and one in a majority white neighborhood have almost a 50 percent difference in value, Twedt-Ball said.
This contributes to the wealth disparity between Black and white people, Twedt-Ball said. House insurance, repairs, and modifications to the homes are going to cost the same, but houses in Black majority neighborhoods will be undervalued.
“Where we invest and how we invest in neighborhoods has this huge, long tale of inequality,” Twedt-Ball said.
Banking and real estate industry needs to “listen deeply” to how to better serve people of color in their communities, he said.
“We have a lot of jobs available in this community,” Twedt-Ball said. “We need to create ways for people outside of Cedar Rapids to look at us and say, ‘That’s where I want to be.’”
Today, housing discrimination might trickle down in to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, or LGBTQ, community and immigrant communities, Anne Harris Carter said.
There also is an achievement gap nationally in school that reside in historically Black neighborhoods.
"We’re not just talking about housing,“ Harris said. ”We’re talking about housing and education, housing and economic opportunity.“
During the panel discussion, Pomeranz announced a new partnership between the city of Cedar Rapids and Kirkwood Community College to provide scholarships for Cedar Rapids residents to assist and supplement the cost of continuing education.
The city will allocate more than $1 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for two years of funding the scholarships. After federal dollars run out, the idea is to get community donations to continue the program, Pomeranz said.
“Education is key” to helping people improve their situations, Pomeranz said. Through this program, “a lot of kids are getting basically a free community college education,” he said.
Pomeranz encouraged Cedar Rapids residents also to visit the city of Cedar Rapids’ website to learn about housing options and grant opportunities for prospective homeowners, at cedar-rapids.org/residents/housing_services.
The panel was hosted by St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in collaboration with Coe College, First Light Christian Fellowship, Mount Mercy University, the NAACP and Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
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