Green spaces of disinvestment: Integrating property market dynamics with land cover change in Cleveland’s historically redlined area

Authors: Betsy Breyer*, University of Illinois
Topics: Urban Geography, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Urban greening, remote sensing, disinvestment, Cleveland, landscape
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Scholarly research on the subprime mortgage crisis has situated predatory mortgage lending within a history of uneven access to credit and barriers to Black wealth accumulation arising from the racist housing policies of redlining in the 1930s. Nearly 10 years after the Great Recession reached its apex in 2008, predatory lending remains inscribed on urban landscapes through processes of disinvestment and demolition of foreclosed property. This paper investigates how the recent crisis has reworked urban landscape patterns by examining the relationship between property market dynamics and shifts in urban vegetation productivity in Cuyahoga, County, Ohio, and its principle city, Cleveland. Combining thirty years of Landsat satellite imagery with tax assessor records and sociodemographic data, the paper uses spatial statistics to demonstrate an uneven process of post-crisis greening associated with subprime mortgage lending and 1970s median home values (not population loss) that is most pronounced in Cleveland’s historically redlined area. Integrating these findings with political economic research on predatory lending as ‘reverse’ redlining, the paper argues for reading the linkage between property markets and urban vegetation dynamics as an archive of racialized dispossession and uneven development, rooted in previous crises and reproduced in the contemporary moment, reiterating a broader process by which predatory real estate practices generate intergenerational economic damage and uneven environmental burdens along axes of race and class. Results from this paper point towards an explicitly political reworking of land change science that links the racist housing policy of redlining with urban environmental change.

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