Realtors group apologizes for its role racially segregating Twin Cities housing

People stand at a podium
Denise Mazone, president of the Minneapolis Area Realtors, apologizes Wednesday for her organization's role perpetuating systemic racism in the real estate industry. Named earlier this year, she is the group's first Black president.
Courtesy of Minneapolis Area Realtors

A major Twin Cities real estate group is apologizing publicly for its role perpetuating systemic racism in the region’s home buying market.

Leaders of Minneapolis Area Realtors say its members were complicit in blocking Minnesotans of color, mostly Black people, from purchasing houses in white neighborhoods, and that Black real estate agents were excluded from joining the group.

Denise Mazone, who took over the Minneapolis Area Realtors earlier this year and is its first Black president, became emotional Wednesday as she read the apology.

“We know we've benefited from a system that was set up to effectively lock folks out of opportunity based on race for generations,” she said. “Decades later, that system works largely as intended. And we are ashamed of that part of it. We were on the wrong side of history.”

The organization noted that the homeownership rate for Black Minnesotans peaked in the 1950s and has declined significantly since. About 25 percent of Black households own their home currently, compared to about 76 percent for white households.

Homeownership gaps between white households and households of color persist in Minnesota even after adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic factors, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found in a 2021 report.

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Minneapolis and St. Paul rank among the bottom in the nation in homeownership rates for Black households, according to a 2019 analysis from APM Research Lab, an MPR News' sister organization.

APM Research Lab surveys from last year found a majority of Black Minnesotans said they have personally experienced racial discrimination in the housing markets.

Jackie Berry, an agent who chairs the panel that proposed Minneapolis Area Realtors’ apology, said she’s experienced discrimination on the job.

“I can say personally as a Realtor working with buyers who are people of color, even though I've had confirmed access to a showing, being denied that showing when they see me and my clients arrive,” she said. “That's devastating to have to turn to my clients and say, ‘I'm sorry, guys, we're not welcome here.’”

The organization urged political leaders to support a financial assistance program for first-time and first-generation homebuyers. It also said new agents will receive anti-racism education.