Housing discrimination was legal in the United States and was written into contracts and advertisements. (The image is from the website: https://mappingprejudice.umn.edu.)

By Lee Egerstrom

Racial commitments to property have been illegal in Minnesota for more than 50 years, but still remain in long-established mortgages and leases. Minneapolis wants to change that.

The city has launched a new program to help people remove this scourge from their legal documents.

The Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office launched a program in early March, called the Just Deeds Project, to help people “fulfill” racial and religious pacts against their property. The City and County of Hennepin waived the fee to amend these property records.

“This is not about erasing history,” said Amy Schutt, assistant counsel for the city of Minneapolis. “It’s really more for education. Many people don’t realize that covenants exist on their documents.

By discovering the discriminatory languages ​​written in mortgages and leases, people discover inequality in housing that still has an impact on how and where people live today, she said.

Black, Native and Colored (BIPOC) members have been forced to live in separate communities in the Twin Cities and elsewhere in Minnesota for over a century. In the Twin Cities, and particularly in Minneapolis and Hennepin County, these alliances also signaled Jews not to buy or occupy property in neighborhoods that had alliances.

In announcing its Just Deeds project, Minneapolis officials noted that University of Minnesota research found more than 8,000 properties in Minneapolis still had racial pacts on the documents. University researchers used volunteers and others to examine thousands of documents recorded as part of a 2016-2020 effort led by a Mapping Prejudice team.
This has affected and continues to affect where Native Americans and other members of the BIPOC community live.

Mapping Prejudice researchers found a joint commitment in Minneapolis stating that “said premises shall at no time be sold, transferred, rented or sublet, or occupied by any person or persons who are not of pure blood. known as Caucasian or white. “
The first racially restricted deed found in Minneapolis, dated 1910, stated that “premises shall not at any time be transferred, mortgaged or rented to one or more persons of Chinese, Japanese or Moorish nationality. Blood or Turkish, black, Mongolian or African origin.

In February, a Minneapolis Federal Reserve research team looked into how these clauses impose restrictions on Native American property. Authors Ben Horowitz, Kim Eng Ky, Libby Startling, and Alene Tchourumoff found:
“Explicitly and implicitly racist policies and practices have prevented many Native American families and families of color from massive federal investments in homeownership during the 20th century. ”

The Just Deeds Project is now working to help homeowners and cities by providing free legal and title services, as well as access to online tools and volunteer opportunities. (Image taken from the Justdeeds website.)

They noted that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), established in 1934, encouraged racial alliances and used color-coded cards to exclude Indigenous and BIPOC families from access to credit. This was the start of the term “redlining”, they said, which told lenders that neighborhoods in “red” were considered “high risk.” “Not surprisingly, from 1934 to 1962, 98% of FHA loans backed by the federal government went to white homebuyers,” they wrote.

The various studies show that these covenants and legal barriers to credit gradually became illegal after World War II. A 1948 United States Supreme Court ruling, Shelley v Kramer, made the covenants inapplicable. The Minnesota legislature banned them in 1953, but they remained commonplace in much of the country until 1968, when Congress passed the Fair Housing Act which made them illegal.

Although it was the law, lenders and realtors continued to drive people out of neighborhoods long afterward, Minneapolis attorney Schutt said. As a result, she said, “discrimination in housing continued, but only the impact was visible.”

Minneapolis Fed researchers show how persistent unattainable credit and other factors remain visible. The disparity between the homeownership rate of whites and that of households of color and Native Americans in Minnesota is the fourth highest in the country, they said.

With federal programs to promote homeownership, the homeownership rate of whites in Minnesota has increased from 55% in 1940 to 77% in 2019. Homeownership for households of color and Native Americans in Minnesota is in fact went from 46% to 44% in those same years.

The faculty and students of St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, in collaboration with the Mapping Prejudice Project, have a related project – Welcoming the Dear Neighbor? – explore racism and similar alliances in Ramsey County and in the St. Paul area around St. Kate’s.

Information on the Minneapolis Project and how to connect with the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office can be found at [email protected] Substantial data on housing discrimination in Minnesota and homeownership from the Minneapolis Fed can be found at https://www.minneapolisfed.org/article/2021/systemic-racism-haunts-homeownership-rates-in-minnesota.

Detailed information from the University of Minnesota on racial and ethnic conventions in Minnesota is available at https://mappingprejudice.umn.edu/; and information on the St. Kate’s project can be found at https://welcomingthedeearneighbourhood.org/.


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