Mapping Prejudice: Ramsey County

Communications, Community, Uncategorized

Mapping Prejudice: Ramsey County

About Mapping Prejudice

The University of Minnesota’s Mapping Prejudice Project combines crowd-sourced research with historic documents to illustrate patterns of homeownership and land use.

Property documents are searched for race-based restrictive covenants with corresponding properties coded on maps. Volunteers access property documents online and identify restrictive covenants by answering a series of questions. These maps provide insight into how property restrictions from the early 1900’s impacted land use and homeownership to the current day. Specifically, race-based restrictive covenants reserved properties and entire neighborhoods “for the exclusive use of white people.”

Although discriminatory restrictive covenants were made illegal by Minnesota statute in the 1940’s and by the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, in many cases, the damage had been done. People of color were excluded from the benefits of rising property values in many parts of the Twin Cities; neighborhoods home to many people of color were affected by redlining (restricting availability of mortgage financing in an area) and subsequent urban renewal projects. For example, Saint Paul’s Rondo Neighborhood in Saint Paul was destroyed by construction of Interstate 94, following a period of redlining that reduced investment in the community. This led to disparities in rates of homeownership by African Americans. These disparities persist. The Twin Cities have some of the highest disparities in rates of homeownership by people of color in the country.

Mapping Prejudice began its research in Minneapolis (Hennepin County) where property titles and deeds were readily available online. Researching and mapping Hennepin County properties was completed in 2019. In January 2020, research got underway on properties in Ramsey County. A series of volunteer engagement events was scheduled for the remainder of the year, but these were cancelled in response to COVID-19. Mapping Prejudice has pivoted to hosting online events to train volunteers.

SPAAR’s Diversity Committee

SPAAR, the Saint Paul Area Association of REALTORS®, through its Diversity Committee, works to promote homeownership to diverse communities. The committee has focused on identifying effective ways to reach this diverse market.

In December 2017, Governor Dayton appointed a Task Force on Housing. The task force looked at causes of Minnesota’s housing shortage and specific housing challenges. Among these challenges were the extreme disparities in rates of homeownership. It was noted that “While Minnesota remains a high homeownership state, we are among the five states with the largest disparities in home ownership among households of color.” 

In August 2018, the Task Force on Housing issued recommendations for addressing Minnesota’s housing shortage. These recommendations were grouped into six “big goals.” REALTORS® were challenged to support and strengthen homeownership by “increasing access to homeownership resources for the large number of income-ready households of color who want [and are prepared] to buy.”

In discussing the task force’s recommendations, SPAAR’s Diversity Committee decided to approach solutions by understanding the root causes of disparities in homeownership. This led to the committee’s partnership with Mapping Prejudice in 2018 (part of the committee’s recognition of the 50th anniversary of passage of the Fair Housing Act). The committee hosted a presentation by Mapping Prejudice staff and scheduled two subsequent volunteer sessions. Participants were trained in researching and qualifying restrictive covenants in property documents.

In 2019, SPAAR’s Diversity Committee expanded on this research by commissioning “Owning Up!” This is a portable exhibit about the causes of disparities in rates of homeownership by people of color. The committee’s “Owning Up!” exhibit helped to foster conversations about homeownership. The exhibit has been displayed at REALTOR® offices, nonprofits, schools and businesses in the Twin Cities.

In November 2019, the committee partnered with Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) for a screening of its documentary, Jim Crow of the North. This film describes housing segregation in the Twin Cities. The committee hosted a discussion with the film’s producer, Daniel Bergin and Mapping Prejudice founder Kirsten Delegard.

Next steps?

SPAAR’s Diversity Committee is working to create marketing materials that describe standards for communications and customer service. (The committee is using a HUD document as a template.) With a working title, What to expect from a REALTOR®, the flyer will help prospective homebuyers understand the professional nature of their relationship with a REALTOR®. In the future this flyer will be available in up to eight languages in online and paper formats.

SPAAR’s Diversity Committee plans to build on its work with Mapping Prejudice. With research underway in Ramsey County, SPAAR wants to show members and community groups how neighborhoods were shaped with race-based restrictive covenants. (Mapping Prejudice has received inquiries from other cities. Extending research into Ramsey County will help to test how Mapping Prejudice’s research may be able to transition to other cities and metropolitan areas.)

SPAAR’s Diversity Committee will co-sponsor virtual volunteer engagement sessions with Mapping Prejudice beginning in June. Volunteers will learn how to identify and assess restrictive covenants found in property documents available online. For information, contact Joe McKinley at jmckinley@spaar.com or 651-772-6344.

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