Artist and designer Damon Rich’s Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center focused on how buildings are paid for and political conflicts about it. Produced between 2006 and 2009, the project included exhibitions, popular education materials, oral histories, teach-in/speak-out events, and an archival preservation effort with National People’s Action. It was on view at Queens Museum in 2009 in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, which was driven by a collapse in the home mortgage market. Two works from that exhibition—Incredible HOLC, 2008 and Cities Destroyed for Cash, 2009—layered maps and data together to tell a history of race in the US through the lens of homeownership and forcible home loss by foreclosure.
Cities Destroyed for Cash used The Panorama of the City of New York to manifest the deep and uneven impact of the foreclosure crisis. A team of paid collaborators and volunteers marked each block containing 3 or more single-family homes that had been foreclosed in 2008 onto the 9000-square-foot architectural model. Markers were concentrated in Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods, often those with a high number of Black homeowners. The piece’s title is borrowed from Brian D. Boyer’s 1973 book on the Federal Housing Administration scandal at HUD, an eerie and tragic forerunner of the 2008 crisis.