The Housing Equality Center got its start in 1956, before the days of fair housing legislation.
At the time, civil rights activist Margaret Collins founded a real estate firm named Friends Suburban Housing, Inc. to help African Americans gain fair access to housing. Meanwhile, another core group of community advocates founded the Southeast Delaware County Area Committee of Friends Suburban Housing. The Committee actively lobbied for fair housing legislation, writing to their legislators, speaking out to the community, publishing public service announcements in local newspapers, writing letters to the editor and even appealing directly to President Lyndon B. Johnson. These individuals not only spoke out against discrimination, they urged neighbors to welcome African Americans into their communities and embrace integration, even at great risk to their own personal safety.
In April of 1968, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, also known as the Fair Housing Act, was signed into law. Now with legal backing to support its goals, the Committee increased its efforts over the years, along with the service area in which it operated. As a result, the Committee changed its name several times: to the Committee for Democracy in Housing of Lansdowne and Vicinity in 1957, the Lansdowne-Upper Darby Fair Housing Council in 1976, the Fair Housing Council of Delaware County in 1984 and to the Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia in 1992.
In 2014, the name changed to the Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania. While fighting racial discrimination has been an important focus since 1956, today’s efforts extend to combating all types of discrimination, including discrimination against people with disabilities, families with children, senior citizens, refugees and immigrants.