Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), as amended, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents of legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and handicap (disability) within the United States.
In 1975, the Winston-Salem Human Relations Commission was established as an advisory board by city ordinance by the Board of Aldermen (now the "City Council"), pursuant to the provisions of G.S. 160A-492. The Commission was originally established to study race relations and forms of discrimination.
In 1978, the Board of Aldermen approved salaried staff for the Commission, thereby creating the Human Relations Department.
In 1990, the Board of Aldermen adopted the City of Winston-Salem Fair Housing Ordinance. As such, the ordinance is substantially equivalent to the Federal Fair Housing Act administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The duties of the commission were established to:
(1) Study problems of discrimination in any or all fields of human relationship and encourage fair treatment and mutual understanding among all ethnic groups in the city;
(2) Promote equality of opportunity for all citizens;
(3) Provide channels of communication among all ethnic groups;
(4) Encourage the employment of qualified people of all ethnic groups;
(5) Encourage youth to become better trained and qualified for employment opportunities;
(6) Anticipate and discover those practices most likely to create animosity and unrest among racial and ethnic groups and by consultation seek a solution as these problems arise or are anticipated;
(7) Hold such meetings as the commission may deem necessary or proper to assist in carrying out its functions;
(8) Make recommendations to the city council for action it deems necessary for the furtherance of harmony among racial and ethnic groups in the city;
(9) Perform duties consistent with general law as may be assigned it from time to time by the city council;
(10) Perform such other duties as necessary to enforce the powers assigned it in accordance with Article IV, the Fair Housing Ordinance of the City of Winston-Salem, of Chapter 38 of the City Code; and
(11) Facilitate partnerships with fair housing and cultural community organizations to further the purpose of the commission.
The nature and the extent of its policies and programs are determined and set by the commission and shall be implemented within accepted policies and procedures of the city.
The Human Relations Department was established to enforce the jurisdictional authority of the Human Relations Commission. Shortly thereafter, the city established a formal cooperative agreement with HUD, for the Human Relations Department staff to enforce fair housing laws in Winston-Salem under the city´s ordinance by sharing funding for processing, investigating, and disposing of housing discrimination complaints filed within the city limits of Winston-Salem, including complaints filed against public housing agencies (W-S Housing Authority or tax credit property).
In 2010, the City Council approved resolutions designating the Human Relations Department as the administrative body for the Youth Advisory Council and the College Advisory Board. Both the Youth Advisory Council and the College Advisory Board serve as advisory bodies to the City Council.