Fair Housing Council of Orange County (FHCOC) has devoted 50 years of housing focused service to the region—enriching and improving the lives of thousands of individuals and families. Under the direction of Denise Cato, President/CEO, the Fair Housing Council of OC continues its heritage, helping hand, and message of hope to those in need in our neighborhoods and communities at large. In fact, Cato and her team has identified and investigated more than 250 consumer-based complaints, in Orange County, on the basis of protected categories such as race, familial status, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and disability to identify a few. FHCOC is one of the oldest and longest standing fair housing enforcement agencies in Southern California: founded in 1965, FHCOC celebrates its 50th birthday in April of 2015.
After 25 years of dedication and experience in civil rights education, enforcement and advocacy, Cato says her passion remains the same. Cato recalls experiencing housing discrimination more than 30 years ago, as a single mother, looking for a family friendly place to live with a park near by and good schools for her two sons. She says “I remember it so clearly, there was a sign posted that read ‘no kids allow, only a small pet’.” Cato says that was her turning point—which propelled her to purse a career as a paralegal and housing advocate.
Today, Denise Cato, as President and CEO of Fair Housing Council of Orange County (FHCOC), still speaks to, leads, and trains hundreds of housing industry professionals regarding both state and federal fair housing laws. Additionally, Ms. Cato currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Fair Housing Alliance, a national organization that supports the efforts, marketing, and legislative needs and agenda of all fair housing organizations nation-wide. Cato attended California State University of Los Angeles and graduated from Watterson College as a paralegal, trained with the John Marshall Law School, The National Fair Housing Congress, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. She was certified by the California Department of Real Estate in 1997 as a trainer in fair housing laws for realtors (as part of their mandatory continuing education requirement). She is well known in the legal community for her professional fair housing training courses taught to private attorneys, property managers and owners, real estate agents and brokers, lenders, and property appraisers. She has taught fair housing classes for the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles for 25 years, Southern Cities Apartment Association for 23 years, and Orange County Apartment Association for at least 13 years.