Visualizing Race and Foreclosure in Oakland

by Hector Fernando Burga

Maps offer a compelling view of trends that influence the social life of cities. A set of carefully crafted maps by Pietro Calogero reveals a story of racial displacement in the aftermath of California’s housing crisis.

Calogero begins his analysis with the image above, marking the location of foreclosures across the city of Oakland. Patterns of concentration show higher foreclosure densities in west and southeast Oakland — the industrial areas of the city. Areas of lower concentration appear in the east, primarily in the affluent residential neighborhoods along the Oakland Hills, overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

The analysis then maps African-American populations prior to the housing-market crash. Patterns of residence are uneven, and neighborhoods with the highest concentrations are located near Oakland’s industrial zones.

In the final map, both representations fuse to demonstrate the relationship between foreclosure and race: African Americans have been disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis in Oakland.

Visualizing the social consequences of the housing crisis offers an opportunity to reflect upon the patterns of racial segregation in American cities. If Oakland is a case study of trends across the United States, how will American cities ever become equitable and socially diverse?

Credits: Maps by Pietro Calogero.

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  1. Did Calogero distinguish between foreclosures of owner-occupied properties and foreclosures of tenant-occupied properties? Homeownership rates are quite a bit lower in the areas of high foreclosure and I would not assume that all foreclosed homes were owner-occupied. There are different policy approaches, depending.

  2. No, the data I used did not distinguish between owner-occupied and "investment" properties (as they are called in the legal lit). There are indeed different policies; ostensibly renters are protected from eviction because they were not party to the loan-default. However I am beginning to hear about abuses of those protections as well: failure to notify new renters that a property is already in default; and collection of rent by agents when actual ownership is in limbo. I would like to know more about the policy distinctions and tensions, though, so please comment further.
    Also, if you know the place to find occupant-status data, I could add that through column-match to either APN or address. Or at least a list of keywords I could use to hunt down the presence/absence of that data. Thanks!