Portland Gentrification and Redlining and it’s affect on Health Equity on African Americans

by Aadhi Sivakumar
3 mins read

          There is a history of racist segregation systems implemented in Portland, Oregon . When Oregon became a state in 1859, the constitution stated, “No free negro or mulatto not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall come, reside or be within this state or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein. …”. Yet, African Americans came to Oregon anyway to pursue a better life. Before the 1960s, Portland, Oregon implemented a redlining system, which was the practice of outlining areas with large African American populations in red ink on maps. These redlined areas were deemed invaluable, or of less worth than areas which were inhabited by white citizens. The Portland Government enforced this practice so that African Americans would suffer lower levels of investment than their white counterparts and be able to only reside in those redlined areas. The gentrification and redlining of Portland rests on a history of economic injustice perpetrated by white figures who had control.

           We see evidence of this originating in 1948, when a flood destroyed Vanport. When this flood hit Oregon, white residents had the option to move while black residents did not. They had the option between leaving Oregon entirely or moving to the Albina district of northeast Portland, the only place at that time where they could reside. They could only reside in Albina due to redlining. Redlining had massive effects on minority communities in the way that banks were loath to provide loans for property inside the red line, claiming the loans were too high risk or were for sums too low to be worth the bank’s effort. The code of ethics of the National Association of Real Estate Boards as well as the Federal Housing Authority(FHA) forbade realtors and bankers from selling or giving loans to African Americans for properties in white neighborhoods as they believed that it would be detrimental to property values. The FHA rated the significance of neighborhoods using maps using a letter scale. All white inhabited neighborhoods received an “A”  while other neighborhoods having Blacks received a “D”. As a result of redlined communities being worth less, landlords often let the property fall, and the health of African Americans as well as other minority groups suffered. From these laws being enforced, minority groups could not afford proper healthcare and lived in undesirable areas where there was heavy pollution and construction. These groups were breathing in toxins that were bad for their health and had no chance in changing this scenario. 

           The issue of gentrification and redlining is slowly being solved. In 1968, the civil rights movement led to the Fair Housing Act which addressed racial discrimination in housing and in 1977, the Community Reinvestment Act was issued to address these racial problems. Even with these Acts passed though, the issue of gentrification still occurs today. If you look at the demographic of homeless in Oregon, African Americans make up above 40% of the homeless population. We are progressing in our way for health equity towards all in Portland, but we still have a lot of work to do.

                                        Work Cited

“History of Racist Planning in Portland.” Portland.gov

Johnson, Katharine, and Katharine Johnson (kjohnson@pps.net) teaches at Irvington Elementary School in Portland.
        “‘Why Is This the Only Place in Portland I See Black People?”.” “Why Is This the Only Place in Portland
        I See Black People?,” Rethinking Schools , 24 July 2020, https://rethinkingschools.org/articles/why-is-this-

“Racial Inequalities in Homelessness, by the Numbers.” Racial Inequalities in Homelessness, by the Numbers,
        National Alliance to End Homelessness, 16 Oct. 2020,

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