The National Association of REALTORS® and the Fair Housing Mandate, 1961-1991

by Jennifer Burke

Institution: University of California – Santa Cruz
Year: 2016
Keywords: Sociology; fair housing; housing market; National Association of Real Estate Boards; National Association of REALTORS®; organizational history; post-civil rights
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2133430
Full text PDF: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/2z64m8g6


This dissertation examines how the country’s largest real estate trade group negotiated the mandate for fair housing in the latter half of the twentieth century. I ask, how has the Realtor trade group informed the nation’s fair housing laws and policies since 1961? To answer this question, I chronicle the National Association of Real Estate Boards’ initial opposition to local and federal fair housing laws in the 1960s and then trace how the organization—rebranded as the National Association of REALTORS®—seemingly transformed its position on fair housing in the post-civil rights decades. Inspired by sociological, historical, and urban studies scholarship that has considered real estate boards as powerful social organizations, this dissertation illustrates how Realtors brokered fairness in the post-civil rights housing market. Based upon my archival research on the trade group’s historical records, government documents, and newspaper accounts, I demonstrate how the Realtors steered the size, scope, and efficacy of the nation’s fair housing environment for three decades. This historical case study revises explanations for the weakness of federal fair housing law by emphasizing how Title VIII’s anemia was purposefully maintained by the National Association of REALTORS® and their political lobby. The Realtors, however, did not completely reject fair housing. I show that while the trade group exhibited a sustained ideological discord with government regulation and oversight of discrimination in the private residential housing market, its contemporary iteration nonetheless popularized the social directive for fair housing in order to rebrand itself as a fair and equitable housing servicer.