Community Discussions of Undesign the Redline

In October of 2019, Joining Forces for Affordable Housing held several community meetings at the Civic Center to review and discuss the Undesign the Redline exhibit that was on display. Our focus was on considering the exhibit's suggestions for future action that would help to dismantle the restrictive limits that redlining imposed on Black communities and the resulting long-term dis-investment and segregation that have resulted.

Here is a brief summary of what we discussed:

From Undesign the Redline: “Re-framing is for changing the narrative we tell ourselves about how we got here, human value, and our perceptions. This big rethink happens in community, across societies, and in our own heart.”
From our community discussions:

  • There is a perception in Evanston that the results of redlining are an issue in only the 5th ward and other small, primarily Black neighborhoods. There is a perception that redlining is a Black issue and that Black neighborhoods are the ones that need to change. In fact, redlining creates restrictions and limits on both sides of the line. Both sides need to change in order to undo the destructive impacts of redlining.
  • Redlining is about more than housing. Undesigning the Redline is also about changing the power dynamic and assumed privilege that currently prevail.
  • The results of redlining are part of Evanston’s character and history. Poverty, racism, and inequity - all are reflected in the City’s current geography and the placement of its housing stock. Undesigning the redline means redefining the character of the entire community.
  • Redlined communities share frustration and anger around having been marginalized and disinvested for generations. The 5th ward and other Black neighborhoods have assets that should be preserved and histories that should be honored.
  • While there is diversity within the Black community and disagreement on specific housing solutions, there is a shared desire to participate in community-building and re-investment without being priced out. Black residents want to have housing choices within Evanston and to live as integral members of the community.
On Re-Designing:
From Undesign the Redline: “Re-designing begins with a collaborative, community-driven approach to the design process. It embraces our differences as well as our inherent human value: designing new ways that value is generated and shared.”
From our community meetings:

  • Redesign in Evanston needs to include changes in every ward, and ward members must be empowered to initiate and participate in redesign efforts. 
  • The redesign process should be used as a community-building opportunity and include input from the communities impacted by redlining, particularly those who have historically been hurt by redlining.
  • The redesign needs to include more than just housing—it must also include jobs, the environment, transportation, economic growth, investment, education, and recreation.
On Re-Investing:

From Undesign the Redline: “We need to Re-invest in communities that have been devalued and the target of wealth destruction. How do we make sure all boats rise together without washing some of us away?”
From our community meetings:

  • Investment needs to focus on resolving the City’s issues of poverty and racial inequity, stemming from a history of slavery and redlining.
  • Investment in affordability needs to address the variety of housing issues identified in our second guest essay (INSERT LINK) summarizing the feedback we have already received from members of all nine of Evanston’s wards.