By Anne Holzman
The Just Deeds coalition has added Falcon Heights to the list of cities that are seeking out racially exclusive covenants attached to Twin Cities properties and helping homeowners discharge those covenants.
That move comes as the Falcon Heights council has officially repudiated racially restrictive housing covenants.
Just Deeds works with the Mapping Prejudice project at the University of Minnesota to identify residential properties that have the covenants on their records.
Rather than erasing that history, Just Deeds allows owners to record their objection to the obsolete but still socially relevant language. The coalition comprises several members including the Minnesota Association of City Attorneys, the Minneapolis Realtors Association and Edina Realty Title.
The initiative started several years ago in Hennepin County. Now Ramsey County has prepared a map, and it shows that Falcon Heights has at least 100 properties with racially restrictive covenants.
The covenants were drafted in the first half of the 20th century and were legal until the Minnesota State Legislature outlawed them in 1962.
Falcon Heights plans to put a registration form on the city website and connect residents with resources on how to find out if their property has a covenant and, if so, how they can take steps to discharge it.
A Falcon Heights ordinance also condemns the use of discriminatory covenants and directs the city attorney to help locate and discharge them.
The city ordinance further acknowledges that the history of racial exclusion from properties has driven wealth inequalities based on race. It directs the city to take action to dismantle racist policies.
At its July 13 meeting, city council member Eric Meyer said that in addition to being “the right thing to do,” it will be good for the community to acknowledge the ongoing impact of such covenants.
“Still a lot of people have no idea how much people of color were held back,” Meyer said.
Council member Yakasah Wehyee, who has championed the ordinance, said that residents “will now possess the tools to exercise their personal agency in disavowing this particular form of institutional racism within the limits of Falcon Heights.”
Anne Holzman covers Falcon Heights and Lauderdale government news for the Bugle.