City of Saint Paul Joins Just Deeds Coalition to Help Homeowners Remove Racial Covenants from Property Deeds
In partnership with Mitchell Hamline Law School's Center for the Study of Black Life and the Law, Saint Paul becomes the 19th city in Minnesota to actively discharge discriminatory contracts from property titles
SAINT PAUL, MN – Today, the City of Saint Paul took a major step toward correcting historic wrongs by joining the Just Deeds coalition to help home and property owners discharge discriminatory racial covenants on their property deeds.
Just Deeds is a collaborative effort between community groups, attorneys, and government agencies to identify and remove racial covenants on property deeds in Minnesota. In the early 20th century, racial covenants were a common practice that placed legal agreements on property deeds that prohibited the sale or lease of property to African Americans and other people of color. They were also used to maintain segregation and prevent the integration of neighborhoods.
While they are now illegal and unenforceable, the language of these covenants remains a painful reminder of the racist policies that have shaped Saint Paul’s history.
“Racial covenants are a dark chapter in our city's history. Words matter, and we’re committed to ensuring everyone in our community feels like they belong,” said Mayor Carter. “By joining the Just Deeds coalition, we move forward our work to create a more just and equitable city for all our residents.”
The Rondo Community Land Trust building on Selby Avenue is a powerful example of the positive impact that discharging covenants can have. The building, located in the once thriving African American Rondo community that was devastated by the construction of Interstate 94 in the 1960s, has a racial covenant on its property deed. The organization is working to rebuild and revitalize the neighborhood while actively working to discharge its own property’s racial covenant.
"We are grateful to the City of Saint Paul for their support in discharging this covenant and helping us to promote racial equity and trust in our community," said Mikeya Griffin, executive director of the Rondo Community Land Trust.
The city is also working with the Center for the Study of Black Life and the Law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law to identify volunteer attorneys - including law students - and legal professionals to assist with the effort.
"Mitchell Hamline is proud to be part of this important effort that will also give our students real world experience in working to correct historic injustices," said President and Dean Anthony Niedwiecki.
The City of Saint Paul joins 18 other Minnesota cities in the Just Deeds coalition and encourages all property owners to research whether their deeds have racial covenants at stpaul.gov/racial-covenants.
"We are committed to working with property owners to remove these discriminatory covenants from their deeds,” said City Attorney Lyndsey Olson. “Our goal is to ensure that all residents have access to safe, affordable housing and opportunities."
Residents who learn their property does have a racial covenant can begin the free process of discharging it with the assistance of the City Attorney's Office. The Just Deeds coalition provides free legal assistance to property owners seeking to remove discriminatory language from their deeds. For more information and how to get involved, visit www.justdeeds.org.
Last Edited: April 11, 2023