“Undesign the Redline:” Redefining the History of Redlining and Mortgage Lending

By Jason Anderson, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications

At Capital Impact Partners, we think about our efforts around affordable housing, healthy communities and inclusive growth in terms of both the past and the future. It is critical for us to understand the past when we think about how we develop projects and policies, who is at the table and what our level of intention is with each project we undertake.


Understanding our past is a vital part of making smart community development decisions. That is why we are excited to partner with a unique organization called “designing the WE,” an NYC-based benefit corporation working within the design and social innovation sectors. Designing the WE facilitates collaborative processes to redefine how big picture systemic challenges are approached, identify opportunities for action, and design more holistic and resilient strategies centered on transformative change.

The organization has focused its efforts on the issue of redlining and its aftereffects through its “Undesign the Redline” exhibit. Redlining is a system of denying mortgages to mostly minority homebuyers by deeming underserved neighborhoods as too risky for bank investment. While the practice was outlawed with the 1968 Fair Housing Act, its effects are still with us. Just last year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development settled with the largest bank in Wisconsin over claims that it had discriminated against Black and Hispanic borrowers in three states from 2008-2010.

As a mission-driven lending organization, this practice hits at our core. Whereas redlining made access to a mortgage virtually impossible for most non-white homebuyers, one of our key efforts is to create equity when it comes to access to affordable housing. While that work often takes place directly with policy makers and developers, I’m excited to work with some forward thinking communications professionals to present this issue in a fresh and unique way.

The Undesign The Redline Exhibit

In an effort to better understand the history of redlining, we are sponsoring an effort by designing the WE team to bring their exciting “Undesign the Redline” exhibit to Washington, D.C., near our corporate headquarters. The exhibit, along with visualizations and discussion circles, will curate a past-to-present journey through this most pressing social challenge. We hope this experience will provoke thoughts, questions, and dialogue around the policies, practices, and investments that accentuate systemic inequalities and impede the full potential of democracy.

The “Undesign the Redline” exhibit is part of the #ImWithUS #WEForALL pop-up experience that launched September 15. The full Undesign the Redline exhibit is installed at Impact Hub D.C. Select pieces are on display at Busboys and Poets. The exhibit is open from 10am-5pm until October 1, and private tours are available. Check the website for exhibit details and more information.