PCHTF Presents "Undesign the Redline" Exhibit

Guided tours share history of housing inequity

PCHTF Presents "Undesign the Redline" Exhibit

Undesign the Redline, an interactive exhibit connecting the history of housing discrimination and segregation to the political and social issues of today, is now open for scheduled tours. The thought-provoking, nationally acclaimed exhibit includes the history of
Des Moines’ core neighborhoods through the pictures, maps, timelines and stories of its residents and is intended to inform and compel future policies that support equitable housing.

Spearheading the exhibit is the Polk County Housing Trust Fund (PCHTF) whose work in recent years is informed by theOne Economy Report and the2019 HUD Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing– with a focus on advancing actionable support for equitable housing policy. These reports and other sources, insights and the opportunity to schedule a tour are available at UndesignDSM.com.

“This guided tour into the local history of race, class and housing policy will make some uncomfortable, and it should, given the damage done by these programs. But thankfully the Exhibit doesn’t stop there,” said Eric Burmeister, Executive Director of Polk County Housing Trust Fund. “It also provides ways to mitigate the damage done and proactively address inequities in future policies and programs in our region.” 

Created by social impact firm Designing the WE, in partnership with PCHTF, the exhibit is an examination of how government policy from the 1930s (which became known as redlining) to today, created segregation and disinvestment in communities within Des Moines while tremendously benefiting others.  Creators and supporters of the exhibit believe that by understanding the enormous role that race played in determining where people were allowed to live, we can better understand why Des Moines looks the way it does, how discriminatory housing practices continue and what needs to change going forward. 

“As we collected personal stories for the exhibit, predominantly from African-Americans, we heard firsthand how their families were directly impacted by these policies and how their lives are still very different decades later as a result,” shared Kendyl Larson, Director of Research and Planning at PCHTF. “It is our hope that as people engage with the history of redlining and hear how lives continue to be damaged, they will feel moved to have conversations around the design and growth patterns in our community. This includes calling for action to create housing policies that with great intentionality will work to reverse redlining and provide equity and opportunities for all people, in all neighborhoods.”

Founded in 1995, PCHTF’s role in the Greater Des Moines region is to provide strategic leadership, expertise and resources to strengthen communities by expanding affordable housing choices. This work is guided by the vision, set forth by its Board of Directors, that everyone has an equal opportunity for safe, stable, affordable house within the communities where they choose to live. The Undesign the Redline exhibit is one of several initiatives PCHTF has created to advance support for housing policy that emphasizes increased equity through housing choice.  The exhibit, and its related guided tours, will run through the 9thAnnual Affordable Housing Week slated for April 13 - 18, 2020.

The Undesign the Redline exhibit is now on display at Franklin Junior High, 4801 Franklin Ave.,
Des Moines, with tours scheduled 4X a week. Organizations and companies interested in providing tour experiences for board members, employees and special committees are finding the exhibit’s interactive approach to be a powerful way to encourage the exploration of how the decisions made today will impact, for better or worse, the lives of others and the economic vitality of central Iowa. The guided tours are free, open to the public and individuals are welcome to sign up and be included within general groups. To schedule online, visit www.undesigndsm.com or call the Polk County Housing Trust Fund at 515-282-3233.