Dream City homesteading

Urban Homesteading program ad published in the Washington Post, March 12, 1977.

Urban Homesteading program ad published in the Washington Post, March 12, 1977.

The journalists Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood drew the title of their 1994 book on recent Washington history, Dream City, from Charles Dickens’ 1842 description of the nation’s capital: “city of magnificent intentions.”

Through the years, District and federal leaders have struggled to solve the city’s housing ills by implementing policies and programs borne of magnificent intentions. Urban homesteading, which the city adopted in 1974 to address a large pool of abandoned housing and growing demand for affordable housing, was one of those dreams.

For a small number of District families who paid $1 for a home, it was a dream come true. Yet, for the distressed neighborhoods where the homes were located, it was a dream deferred. The program which hoped to spur contagious reinvestment failed in that respect. Continue reading

Redlining Atlanta: the 1935 map

Atlanta redlining map legend.

Atlanta redlining map legend.

The Federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) was established in 1933 to stabilize the housing market by providing relief to distressed homeowners. The new entity was charged with examining residential stability. Urban area maps were produced that divided neighborhoods by mortgage lending risk. The best — safest — neighborhoods were color-coded and given letter grades. Those ranked lowest were color-coded red: “redlining.”

The National Archives has digitized a small sample of the surviving redline maps. These include Birmingham, Alabama; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Providence, Rhode Island; Richmond, Virginia; Salt Lake City, Utah; Syracuse, New York; and Waterbury, Connecticut. Other repositories, e.g., in Ohio and Pennsylvania, also have digitized maps in their states.

The Archives also digitized the Atlanta map. It was delineated on a basemap drawn in 1931 and it includes Decatur and Avondale Estates. The Atlanta map’s HOLC annotation reads:

This map, prepared by Alec C. Morgan, Field Agent, represents the composite opinions of Adams-Gates Company, Draper-Owens Company, both Atlanta realtors, and H.O.L.C. State Appraiser, John L. Conyers. The individual areas were checked by H.O.L.C. appraisers who were familiar with same.

Click on the embedded image below for a larger version. The NARA site has a zoomable version as well as a PDF.


Redline Map for Greater Atlanta, Georgia, ca. 1935. National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 195: Records of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, 1933 – 1989.

Be sure the check out the historical summaries at the NARA site as well as the Ohio and Pennsylvania ones.

 © 2014 D.S. Rotenstein.