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New tool helps Minneapolis homeowners disavow racial covenants in deeds

A new free program connects homeowners with the City Attorney's office to complete the process

While racist land use restrictions have been illegal since 1968, as many as 9,000 properties in Hennepin County still have one stuck in their deed. 

That's according to the University of Minnesota's "Mapping Prejudice" project, which tracks these restrictions, known as racial covenants, in deeds across Hennepin and Ramsey County.

The racial covenants, first recorded in Minneapolis in the 1910s, prohibited all future owners of the property from selling or renting it to people of color. The U's project spurred legislation in 2019 to make it easier for homeowners to clearly emphasize the restrictions are void.

Now, the City of Minneapolis has launched a "Just Deeds" project, which allows homeowners to receive free assistance from the city in retrieving a copy of the racial covenant, drafting a requisite discharge form and then filing that form against the property's legal title. 

Homeowners can enter their information through an online application, and the city will check if the property aligns with data from the "Mapping Prejudice" project.

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Hennepin County has also waived its typical fees for the process. 

"While the covenants no longer have any force of law, they still are a moral injury to the current homeowner," Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, said in a 2019 statement about the bill he authored allowing homeowners to make the change. 

"This also provides a way for our community to have a conversation about the history of racial discrimination in housing in Minnesota and how it impacts our families and communities today.”

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