Minneapolis homeowners can now file paperwork disavowing the racial covenants that were placed on their properties decades ago and contributed to segregation in the city.

City officials say they hope a new program will allow people "to reclaim their homes as equitable spaces" and raise awareness about discriminatory housing practices that continue to have lasting impacts today.

"When these covenants were outlawed in the 1960s, we all just sort of forgot about them," City Attorney Jim Rowader said in a statement. "There was no effort to confront the impact of them, or make amends for the harm. Now, in present day, we have all of these inequities, and people are wondering why. Well, here's an example of why."

Racial covenants, written into deeds between 1910 and 1950, prevented people of color, including many Black residents, from buying or renting homes in white designated neighborhoods. Disparities in homeownership continue decades later. A 2019 Star Tribune analysis found Minnesota's homeownership gap between white and Black households was the third widest in the nation.

While it has been illegal to enforce the racial covenants since at least 1968, many of the restrictions remain in property records. Citing statistics from the Mapping Prejudice project based at the University of Minnesota, the city said it believes more than 8,000 properties in Minneapolis have racial covenants.

The city's new Just Deeds Project, unveiled Wednesday, will allow people to file paperwork condemning the racial covenants and formally declaring that they don't want them enforced. City attorney's staff will help people with the paperwork, free of charge.

People interested can find the application at www2.minneapolismn.gov/attorney/wcmsp-227222 or call 612-673-3000.

Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994