Just Deeds Racially Restrictive Covenants Project

Like many cities around the country, during the development of Golden Valley there was an active effort to ensure it was an all-white community. As neighborhoods grew, developers, builders, realtors, and City officials purposefully and proactively prohibited people of color and certain ethnicities from renting and owning homes through the use of restrictive covenants. Just Deeds is a program that allows property owners to discharge racially restrictive covenants as a first step in owning up to the racial inequality present in the city and creating change to promote racial equity.

History

Restrictive covenants first appeared in Minneapolis in 1910. At that time, the area was not particularly segregated. The purpose of these covenants was to push people of color and non-Christians, especially Black people, into economically depressed areas and exclude them from developing suburban areas, including Golden Valley. Beginning in 1910, this practice was widespread. It systematically created and deliberately reinforced racial and socioeconomic segregation that is still visible in the Twin Cities today.

The insidious use of restrictive covenants, in addition to other local, federal, and state policies and practices aimed at segregating communities, created homogenous communities and concentrated wealth (through homeownership and access to economic resources) within the white population while it denied wealth to members of the Black, Asian, Latino/a, Jewish, and all other indigenous and non-white communities.

Mapping Prejudice, a University of Minnesota project, created an interactive map that shows how common restrictive covenants are in Hennepin County. As the image below shows, restrictive covenants are common in Golden Valley, especially on the side of the city that borders Minneapolis. You can see if Mapping Prejudice found a restrictive covenant on your property by clicking on the map.

Location of covenants source mappingprejudice.org

The Impact Remains

Restrictive covenants have been unenforceable and illegal for decades, but they still affect people today. To dismantle barriers to prosperity and inclusion we must acknowledge the past and recognize its present-day effects:

  1. The housing patterns created restrictive covenants persist today. Decades later, most homes with restrictive covenants are still owned by white people and, on average, those homes are worth 15 percent more than a similar home without a restrictive covenant.
  2. Because of racially discriminatory housing policies, including restrictive covenants, Minnesota has one of the largest racial disparities in the country in areas such as income, homeownership, education, and health outcomes. Many of these disparities can be traced back to the fact that families of color and people of certain religions could not purchase homes in suburban areas and, therefore, did not have access to well-funded public education, healthcare, homeownership, parks and recreation, and the ability to build generational wealth.
  3. Restrictive covenants continue to send a message about who is welcome in our community and who is not. It’s time to proactively renounce this discriminatory language and send a new message of inclusion and belonging. The segregation that exists in and around our community today was carried out through a coordinated effort by developers, government (local, state, and federal), realtors, lawyers, bankers, and ordinary people.

Golden Valley Takes Action

In 2019, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law to allow property owners to renounce the covenants on their properties. The Golden Valley Human Rights Commission started the Just Deeds Project, which provides free legal and title services to help property owners find covenants and discharge them from their property titles. In October 2020, The Golden Valley City Council passed a resolution officially joining the Just Deeds coalition – a group of cities, attorneys, realty and title companies working together to dismantle systemic racism in housing.

Ways To Take Action

Participate in the Just Deeds Project. If your title has one of these covenants, take steps to remove it. Click here to complete the registration form, then submit it to justdeeds@goldenvalleymn.gov. We will forward your information to one of our volunteer experts, who will contact you directly about your property.

Learn more and start ongoing dialogue. Community conversations about restrictive covenants is an important step toward racial equity. Restrictive covenants played a role in how Golden Valley was planned and developed. Use this neighborhood toolkit to get started.

  • Volunteer with Mapping Prejudice. Help to build the map by reviewing titles for restrictive covenants.

Resources

  • Mapping Prejudice: Building on the existing work of Mapping Inequality, Mapping Prejudice is the first-ever comprehensive visualization map of racial covenants in Minneapolis. Started by a group of University of Minnesota researchers and professors, the database incorporates visual guides, educator’s guide, and virtual activism opportunities in topics such as structural racism, racial restrictions, and racial disparities.
  • Just Deeds website: The Just Deeds Coalition provides free legal and title services to help property owners find discriminatory covenants and discharge them from their property titles. The Coalition also provides education opportunities to help communities acknowledge this racist history and pursue reconciliation and anti-racist solutions.
  • SunPost’s Little White Houses news article: This article introduces the early work on the Just Deeds Project.
  • GV Council Resolution No. 20-54 Resolution Condemning the use of Discriminatory Covenants, Discharging Discriminatory Covenants on City-Owned Property, and Approving Participation in the Just Deeds Coalition.
  • City of Golden Valley Equity Plan: Learn more about past action items.