Fair Housing Profiles: Dorothy Mae Richardson

As we celebrate Black History Month by honoring the stories of our communities, the Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania recognizes the tireless work of housing advocates and everyday people who dared to imagine and curate communities of inclusivity.

Dorothy Mae Richardson is one of the many activists we honor during the month of February. During a time when urban renewal and racist lending practices excluded Black residents from economic advancement, Richardson was able to leverage the assets of her community to provide housing opportunities to many Black residents. Her contributions to the housing justice movement have had a lasting impact in the state of Pennsylvania and beyond.

Dorothy Mae Richardson, a native of Central Northside Pittsburgh, witnessed the displacement of many Black residents as a result of Pittsburgh’s urban renewal program. In response, Richardson developed a women-led community organization called Citizens Against Slum Housing (CASH). CASH provided a platform for marginalized residents to advocate for code enforcement, the development of affordable housing, and the maintenance of habitable dwellings. The organization was also able to develop relationships with financial institutions to provide loans to rehabilitate deteriorating homes. In 1968, Richardson developed Neighborhood Housing Services which brought together community members, financial institutions, and local government to administer loans. This successful model for community development was adopted nationally and continues to influence urban development in cities across the nation.

Dorothy Mae Richardson was not traditionally educated in housing policy or urban planning but was able to change the nation’s approach to community development. Her work alongside the work of many other advocates has provided a pathway to housing for marginalized residents despite the existence of overt discriminatory housing practices. The work of Richardson reminds us of the legacies we work to continue and inspires us to imagine ways to take action against discriminatory behaviors within our communities and across our nation.