For 45 years, fair housing activist Lee Porter has led North Jersey agency fighting discrimination

July 04, 2016
The stacks of boxes that fill Lee Porter’s office in Hackensack are just a small sampling of a storied 50-year career combating housing discrimination in North Jersey and beyond.
     Porter, who has served as the executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey for 45 years, didn’t plan to lead the non-profit corporation for so long when she began to volunteer there in 1965. But somehow, she said, the years went by and the work never finished. She is now 89 years old, a grandmother of four who drives to the Main Street office every day, she said, because there is still more work to do.
     “I almost feel like a failure,” she said as she sat at a conference table in her office where the walls are lined with awards bestowed on her through the years. “Twenty years ago, I used to tell the United Way that we are the only organization that you fund whose ultimate goal is to go out of business, and we do that when equal opportunity in housing becomes a reality. That hasn’t happened yet.”
     Housing advocates and Bergen County residents who have worked with Porter say she has been an influential figure in lobbying and receiving more funding nationally for fair housing, for bringing landmark discrimination cases to court, and for simply helping people move to where they want to live.