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The Effects of “Redlining” on Current-day Access to Urban Nature

Authors: Vivek Shandas*,
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Environment, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Redlining, urban forests, environmental justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 10:15 AM / 11:30 AM
Room: Virtual Track 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Access to urban nature – trees, parks, green spaces – is well known to provide myriad benefits to communities around the world. More recently, a wide-spread recognition that communities with the least access to financial resources, and communities of color have a disproportionate lack of urban nature across the United States; yet, few studies ask fundamental questions about why our current day planning systems are disproportionally limiting access to nature from historically underserved communities. This article asks whether areas that were targeted for disinvestment in the past through policies such as redlining are now facing less access to urban nature. We address this question by comparing the amount and distribution of urban canopy in 108 US cities with historically redlined areas to those areas that were not affected by such policies. Our results reveal that 94% of studied cities display consistent city-, regional-, and national-scale patterns of decreased urban green spaces in formerly redlined areas relative to their non-redlined neighbors by as much as 25%. Regionally, Southeast and Western cities display the greatest differences while Midwest cities display the least. While these trends are partly attributable to the relative preponderance of impervious surfaces to tree canopy, which we also examine, other factors may also be driving these differences. The findings shed light on the current patterns of urban canopy, and shed light echoes of past policies decisions that are affecting communities today. Based on these results, we also provide a framework that centers historically underserved communities in urban greening efforts.

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