Racism in Ramsey County

My childhood home

Racism is everywhere it is baked into our culture and our communities. As racism pertains to housing it goes way back.

I have been helping with the “Mapping Prejudice” project and reading deeds for properties in Ramsey County. Some of them have deed restrictions that prevent people of color from purchasing the property.  The deeds are going to be mapped . . hence the name “mapping prejudice”

For me looking at the deeds has been interesting because I have lived in St. Paul for a long time and my Mother’s family is from St. Paul too. I recognize the family names of people I went to school with.

Here is a restrictive covenant I found on a deed yesterday:

Said property shall not be sold or rented to or used by any person except a person or persons of the White Caucasian Race, but persons or other races may occupy the premises when employed as servants by the owners.

There are entire developments in Ramsey County with racially restrictive covenants. I have found the covenants in 10 subdivisions in White Bear Lake, St. Paul, and Vadnais Heights.

Racial covenants have hurt people of color and their families. They can no longer be enforced but they are part of the reason why we have neighborhoods where mostly white people live.

Homeownership isn’t just about having a place to live it is also a way to build wealth.

Home prices still rising

At the beginning of the shut down caused by the pandemic, there were many who assumed home prices would go down. Even though we are now technically in a recession and with double-digit unemployment numbers home prices are still rising.

Part of the reason for this is even before the pandemic there was a shortage of homes for sale. I have written this like a zillion times but housing prices are being driven by supply and demand.

I remember the great recession and the crash of the housing market like it was last week. Those of us who sell real estate were strongly encouraged to be optimistic about the market no matter what.

It was horrible the way banks resold houses to people for way less than the people they were taken away from paid for them.

The people that bought the houses had smaller mortgage payments than the previous owners. Those previous owners may have been able to afford those lower payments.

It is hard to predict what will happen next in the housing market. All we can do is try to keep up with the news. optimism about the market isn’t going to make it better or worse. Right now we are in the seventh year of a seller’s market that keeps getting stronger as the demand continues to outpace supply.

graph of home sale prices
The median home sales price in the Twin Cities Metro area – median home sale price is up 5.6% in a rolling we month average

The data used to make the graph is from the NorthstarMLS and is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed.

A look back to July of 2019

I wrote this a year ago during a simpler happier time. These days the part of downtown that is near the Landmark Center and Library is like a ghost town. It is rare to see anyone in Rice Park. The park used to be a busy place.

The Lowertown area is a different story. There are a lot of people out and about all day and all night. For some reason, the city turned off and none of the fountains in St. Paul have water in them. The stream that used to run through Mears park is just a cement ditch.

Things have changed a lot since last July. This is what I wrote back then:

Parts of downtown St. Paul are getting a little sprucing up. Downtown St. Paul has been undergoing revitalization and sprucing up for the last several decades.

The efforts can be seen at the East and West ends of downtown. In the middle, there is a lot of pigeon poop on the sidewalks.

The Saint Paul Downtown Alliance is a new organization that represents downtown businesses, nonprofits, government entities, residents, and entrepreneurs to build a strong and vibrant downtown and create a positive downtown experience.

One very visible project to spruce up downtown St. Paul is the mosaic trash cans. I want to take pictures of all of them because they are really beautiful.  They were designed by Mosaic artist Daniela Bianchin.

Here is just one of the art pieces near Rice Park.

I am going to revisit this next July. I wonder what downtown will look like then. I wonder what the world will be like.

To mask or not to mask

I have not weighed in publicly on the whole mask issue. I started making masks at home before it was all the rage and when the only people who needed them were health care workers.

Now I have a whole wardrobe of masks and make them for my family and my neighbors. I also have disposable masks.

I wear a mask when I am indoors in public. In St. Paul masks are required but there are a lot of people who do not wear them.

I am required to wear a mask when I work in person with clients and when I tour homes for sale. My clients are also required to wear masks and they do.

When I am outside walking or biking I have a mask with me just in case. When I am sure I won’t need one I wear a bandana around my neck that can be used as a face covering if I need one.

It seems like such a small thing to do if it could help stop the spread of COVID-19. I am well aware of the fact that the mask doesn’t protect me but it may protect others. Wearing a mask wasn’t my idea it is the medical experts who are recommending it. I just want to do my part however small.

In Minnesota, I am required to wear a seatbelt in the car. I can get a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. There are other safety rules I am required to follow like speed limits and stop signs.

For those of us who live in the city, there are a lot of rules. There are even rules against making noise.

how to wear a mask
The definitive mask guide

It is time to think about bulbs

My garden this year isn’t the garden I planned. I bought some seeds before the stay at home order and because of that, I have a garden. By the time gardening season started the local nurseries were out of everything because gardening is very popular this year. I found and still find plants at the Saint Paul Farmer’s market which is where I got the plants for my flower boxes.

I would like to put in some more tulips for next year and a few other plants that grow from bulbs. The bulbs need to go in the ground in the fall.  I will probably buy my bulbs via mail order this year. I plan on placing an order soon, like this week before they run out.

If there is one thing I have learned from the pandemic it is that I need to plan ahead and when possible buy ahead.

Now is a good time to start thinking about bulbs.


Try the University of Minnesota Extension for learning about any kind of gardening in Minnesota. There is a section about bulbs too. complete with “how too” videos.

A few of my favorite summer things

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. This is the time of year when things bloom and the monarch butterflies are out and about too. I don’t see as many bees as I used to but it is my understanding that they are all safe and happy in my neighbor’s pollinator gardens and I don’t need to worry about them.

water lily

The water lilies are blooming on local lakes.


Monarch on milkweed – in my garden

The coneflowers are just starting to bloom.

cone clowers

I am spending as much time as I can outside but haven’t really gone anywhere this summer except outside. None of the pictures were taken this year but the flowers and the butterfly look the same this year as they did when I took the pictures.