July 13, 2021
With Arizona experiencing its hottest summer on record last year, identifying heat-mitigation strategies and solutions is already a complex issue, and the lasting effects of racially based redlining implemented throughout the 20th century only add to its complexity.
Redlining was the practice of denying loans to people of color and low-income individuals based on the financial risk of the area where they chose to live. Essentially, this process aided in the active separation of races during segregation.
On the Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America website, a map of Phoenix shows how the city’s neighborhoods were categorized by lenders in 1940.
Patricia Solis, executive director of the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience (KER) at Arizona State University, and her team began by mapping and formulating a rich dataset. By linking heat-associated deaths, state programs, cooling centers, utility bills and more, Solis discovered that people who live in mobile homes were disproportionately affected by extreme heat.
Many of the places where minority and economically disadvantaged communities reside in Phoenix coincide with historically redlined neighborhoods, where the legacy of disinvestment continues. This coincides with higher land surface temperatures given housing and infrastructure differences.
According to sustainability scientist Melissa Guardaro, assistant research professor with KER and co-leader of the Arizona Heat Preparedness and Resilience Workgroup (AHPRW), evidence of the correlation between socioeconomically disadvantaged communities and heat-related deaths in the Phoenix area is evident through the historical side effects of redlining.
“Redlining has created a historical legacy of underspending in the area,” Guardaro said. “You can just see it. … You can just drive through the different neighborhoods and see the difference in tree plantings and public spaces for cooling. It is starkly apparent.”