Researchers estimate that 30,000 Hennepin County residents have prejudiced language in their home's deeds, and likely thousands more throughout the state do, too.
While land use restrictions based on someone's race or religion have long been unconstitutional, state legislators want to make it easier for people to renounce the wording in their home's historical record.
The first measure to pass in the state House this session would allow people — if they submit a form and pay a $46 fee — to emphasize that the racist restrictions are void.
"We're at a point where looking at our racial history helps us to better confront the issues of today," said Rep. Jim Davnie, D-Minneapolis, the proposal's sponsor.
House members passed his proposal without any opposition Monday, but the plan still faces a number of political obstacles before becoming law.
Members of the Mapping Prejudice research project brought the idea to Davnie. The team has tracked down 17,000 so-called restrictive covenants in Hennepin County and estimates there are approximately 13,000 more in the county.
Someone who wants to address a restrictive covenant in their home's title now has to hire a lawyer and pay hundreds of dollars, Mapping Prejudice Project Director Kirsten Delegard said.
The measure the House approved Monday simplifies that process.
A homeowner would be able to fill out a form, file it with the county recorder and pay a fee to add a document addressing the restrictive covenant. The change would not remove the covenant entirely, Davnie said, noting that a title is a historical resource, and historians want to make sure the original documents remain intact.
Such covenants were created to limit who could own, live in, pay for or use properties. They contributed to segregation in the United States and have lingering impacts.
"We're living with the legacies of the covenants today," Delegard said.
While the city of Minneapolis is about 53 percent white, homes that had covenants on them are 79 percent white, Kevin Ehrman-Solberg, one of the co-founders of Mapping Prejudice, said in a House committee hearing last month.
The values of homes that had covenants are now about 50 percent higher than homes that were historically redlined, he said.
Davnie started pushing for the measure last session but was unsuccessful. This year, the bill has bipartisan support.
"There's no reason not to allow people this opportunity to respond to the moral injury that's laying in their property title," Davnie said.
However, a similar measure in the Senate has not yet had a committee hearing.
Sen. Jeff Hayden, D-Minneapolis, is the author of the bill and said Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Chairman Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, has not indicated whether he would give the proposal a hearing this year.
Both Davnie and Hayden said they hope the easy passage of the proposal in the House will prompt senators to take up the issue.
"It's the right thing to do. It's the just and moral thing to do," Hayden said.