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Peoria Defender

Breaking Down Barriers: A Look at Housing Discrimination in Peoria

Housing discrimination has a long and persistent history in the United States, and Peoria, IL is no exception. The roots of housing discrimination in Peoria can be traced back to the early 20th century when restrictive covenants were used to prevent people of color from buying or renting homes in certain neighborhoods. These covenants were often used in conjunction with redlining, which was the practice of denying loans to people of color based on the racial makeup of their neighborhoods. The legacy of these practices still affects communities in Peoria today.


The Roots of Housing Discrimination in Peoria

Housing discrimination in Peoria, as in many cities across the United States, can be traced back to the early 20th century. At this time, the real estate industry was largely unregulated, and discriminatory practices such as redlining, blockbusting, and steering were common. These practices, which were used to maintain racial segregation and limit the mobility of African Americans, had far-reaching and long-lasting effects on the city and its residents.

Redlining, which is the practice of denying loans and insurance to people in certain neighborhoods based on their race, was particularly damaging. By denying access to credit, redlining made it nearly impossible for African Americans to buy homes, build wealth, and establish roots in the communities they lived in. This effectively trapped many African Americans in impoverished and segregated neighborhoods, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and disadvantage.

Blockbusting, another common practice, involved real estate agents and developers exploiting racial fears to convince white homeowners to sell their homes at a loss. They did this by spreading false rumors that African Americans were moving into the neighborhood, causing property values to decline and creating panic among white homeowners. Real estate agents and developers then bought up the homes at a discounted price and sold them to African American families at a markup, further perpetuating racial segregation and exacerbating the effects of redlining.

Steering, which involved real estate agents directing African American families to certain neighborhoods and denying them access to others based on their race, further entrenched the racial segregation of the city. This practice was particularly insidious because it was often done with the guise of helping families find suitable homes, when in fact it was designed to keep African Americans isolated and disadvantaged.

These discriminatory practices had far-reaching and long-lasting effects on the city and its residents. By limiting the mobility and wealth-building opportunities of African Americans, they created entrenched and persistent disparities between white and African American residents that persist to this day.


Redlining and Loan Denial

Redlining was a widespread practice in the United States from the 1930s to the 1960s. Banks, insurance companies, and real estate agents all used redlining to discriminate against people of color by denying them loans or insurance coverage. In Peoria, this was particularly prevalent in African American neighborhoods. This meant that people of color were unable to get loans to buy homes, start businesses, or make improvements to their homes. This in turn created a cycle of disinvestment in these communities, which worsened over time. The lack of investment in these communities led to lower property values, which made it even harder for people of color to get loans.

Redlining and loan denial were among the most damaging practices used to maintain racial segregation in Peoria and across the United States. By denying access to credit and insurance, redlining made it nearly impossible for African Americans to buy homes, build wealth, and establish roots in the communities they lived in. This effectively trapped many African Americans in impoverished and segregated neighborhoods, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and disadvantage.

The effects of redlining were compounded by loan denial, which involved banks and other financial institutions refusing to make loans in certain neighborhoods based on the racial makeup of their residents. This meant that even if African American families had the resources to buy homes, they often could not obtain the financing they needed to do so.

The result of redlining and loan denial was a persistent racial wealth gap that remains a major challenge in Peoria and across the United States today. African American families were denied the opportunities to build wealth and establish roots in the communities they lived in, while white families were able to buy homes, build wealth, and pass down their assets to future generations. This created a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty and disadvantage for African American families and a self-reinforcing cycle of wealth and advantage for white families.

The effects of redlining and loan denial were devastating for communities of color in Peoria and across the country. It created a wealth gap that persists to this day, with people of color having significantly less wealth than white people. This gap has made it difficult for communities of color to access the resources they need to thrive, including education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.


Changing the System

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was a turning point in the fight against housing discrimination in Peoria and across the country. The act prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, and other factors. While the act was a step in the right direction, it did not go far enough to address the root causes of housing discrimination.

In recent years, there has been a renewed effort to address the legacy of housing discrimination in Peoria and beyond. Efforts to promote affordable housing and to provide access to credit and financing to communities of color are two examples of these efforts. There is also increasing awareness of the need to address the root causes of housing discrimination, including zoning laws and the history of redlining.

While progress has been made in recent years, there is still much work to be done to achieve true equality in housing in Peoria and beyond. Communities of color continue to face significant challenges in accessing affordable housing, credit, and other resources. These challenges must be addressed if we are to achieve a truly just and equitable society.


Gerrymandering to Control Segregation

Another tactic used to maintain housing segregation in Peoria and other cities was gerrymandering. This is the practice of drawing political district boundaries in a way that gives one racial or ethnic group an advantage over others. In Peoria, this was often done to ensure that African American communities were isolated in certain neighborhoods, making it more difficult for them to access resources and opportunities.

Gerrymandering has been used throughout the United States to maintain housing segregation and to prevent communities of color from gaining political power. It has also contributed to the concentration of poverty in certain neighborhoods, which has made it harder for people to access resources and opportunities.


The Lasting Effects of Housing Discrimination in Peoria

Despite numerous efforts to eradicate housing discrimination and address its effects, the legacy of redlining and discriminatory practices remains palpable in Peoria, Illinois to this day. One of the most notable lasting effects of housing discrimination is the perpetuation of racial and economic segregation. Redlining and discriminatory lending practices have resulted in unequal distribution of resources, including education and employment opportunities, further perpetuating systemic inequality and poverty.

Another effect of redlining is the loss of wealth in communities of color. The inability to obtain loans to buy or improve homes resulted in a lack of investment and property values remaining low. This has had a ripple effect, with future generations unable to accumulate wealth through home ownership. In many cases, these neighborhoods are still struggling to recover from this loss of wealth and opportunity.

Gerrymandering has also been a significant factor in maintaining housing segregation in Peoria. The manipulation of voting districts has allowed for a concentration of power in the hands of those who seek to preserve the status quo and maintain housing segregation. This has made it difficult for communities of color to elect representatives who will advocate for their needs and interests, leading to a perpetuation of discriminatory policies and practices.

Despite these persistent challenges, there have been efforts to address the lasting effects of housing discrimination in Peoria. For example, organizations and advocates have been working to increase access to affordable housing and address the legacy of redlining. Efforts to reform the lending system, increase transparency, and hold lenders accountable have also been made. Additionally, advocates have worked to challenge gerrymandered voting districts, in an effort to give communities of color a greater voice in local and national politics.



The history of housing discrimination in Peoria, Illinois highlights the persistent and detrimental effects of systemic racism in the United States. Despite numerous efforts to address and eradicate housing discrimination, its legacy continues to be felt in the form of racial and economic segregation, perpetuated through redlining, discriminatory lending practices, and gerrymandered voting districts.

It is crucial that we continue to address the lasting effects of housing discrimination and work towards creating a more equitable society. This requires acknowledging the past and working to dismantle the systemic barriers that perpetuate inequality. Only through continued efforts and a commitment to justice can we hope to create a more inclusive and equitable future for all residents of Peoria and beyond.


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