Ensuring Equal Access to Housing
The Fair Housing Council of Orange County was formed in 1965 in the wake of the civil rights movement that resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Council incorporated in 1968, the same year that Congress extended civil rights protections to cover housing with the adoption of the Fair Housing Act.
Under the direction of a volunteer board of directors and staff, the agency works to fulfill a mission of protecting the quality of life in Orange County by ensuring equal access to housing opportunities, fostering diversity and preserving dignity and human rights.
An operating member of the National Fair Housing Alliance, the FHCOC works to eliminate housing discrimination and guarantee the rights of all people to freely choose the housing for which they qualify in the area they desire. Our services include comprehensive community education, individual counseling, mediation, and low-cost advocacy.
Fair Housing Council of Orange County (FHCOC) was founded in 1965 by Richard Petherbridge, a local Santa Ana attorney and advocate with the American Civil Liberties Union.
During the early 1960’s, Petherbridge provided legal help to families based on the increasing numbers of racial discrimination cases against blacks or African Americans seeking housing in Orange County—especially areas outside of Santa Ana.
In fact, FHCOC was established in response to the passing of California’s Proposition 14, an anti-fair housing laws initiative largely introduced and supported by the Real Estate Industry. Proposition 14 essentially repealed California’s Rumford Fair Act of 1963 which prohibited the denial of housing on the basis of color, ethnicity, religion, sex, marital status, physical handicap, or familial status.
Petherbridge served as Chair of FHCOC’s Board of Directors for two years. In 1969, Robert Johnson was elected as the organization’s fourth Chairman of the Board since its founding in 1965. In February 1966, prior to becoming the chair, Johnson started attending fair housing meetings at the council after a recommendation from his wife, Lois, who had already been participating. Johnson, as a founding member of the board of directors, has devoted almost five decades to civil rights issues and has served as a pioneer for change and elimination of segregation of blacks in Orange County.
After the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, FHCOC continued to build on its mission: “to protect the quality of life in Orange County by ensuring equal access to housing opportunities, fostering diversity, and preserving dignity and human rights.” In 1970, the organization hired its first Executive Director Camille Beason and continued to operate daily using a staffing model which included volunteer advisory boards and neighborhood councils.
Equalizing Access to Housing
In 1974, the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) was established by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to foster better living environments, expand job opportunities and improve housing stock. The Fair Housing Council had already been working in Orange County communities and neighborhoods to equalize access to housing and community opportunities for blacks or African Americans; thus, when CDBG programs began in cities like Santa Ana in 1975, the Council was the right organization to support new program initiatives.
Fair Housing Council of Orange County has been serving many local jurisdictions in Orange County for more than 40 years working to protect housing rights and opportunities for communities of color who have historically been disenfranchised and discriminated against in housing and employment. As additional legislation was passed, such as the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 and the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) in 1987 FHCOC was able to build on its existence and keep its doors open by receiving grant funding from HUD’s FHIP Program, private donors, and other resources.
Education and Counseling
Additionally, our housing counseling team provides one-on-one education, mediation, and counseling for individuals and families throughout the Orange County region—we are a HUD Approved Housing Counseling Agency. FHCOC has devoted 50 years of housing focused service to the region—enriching and improving the lives of thousands of individuals and families.