Awards of Merit

The 2020 application process is now closed! 

About the Program:

The NAHRO Agency Awards Program was created to give national recognition to the achievement and innovation of NAHRO agency/organizational members throughout the country; to provide additional opportunities to inform the public of the best in housing and community development; and to create a resource bank of information on significant, innovative activities performed by housing and redevelopment agencies and community development departments.  Since 1989, NAHRO has honored more than 6,000 programs. The awards application process opens in October and closes in January.

The Agency Awards Program is a two-tiered program consisting of the Awards of Merit and the Awards of Excellence.  The first tier of the program, the Awards of Merit, are submitted to National NAHRO and sent to Regional Juries for review.  The second tier of the program, the Awards of Excellence, are selected from the Award of Merit winners nominated for an Award of Excellence by the Regional Juries.  They are sent to National Juries who may select up to 24 Awards of Excellence in a given year.

The Awards Application consists of two main parts.  A Program Summary that describes the program in 100 words or less and a Program Narrative that creates an overview of the program that addresses a set list of questions/topics in 2,400 words or less. 

For more information, please review the 2020 Awards Flyer or see below. 

Award Categories:

Resident and Client Services — Includes programs that enhance the lives of residents and clients:

  • Self-Sufficiency Programs—Including employment, job readiness, homeownership counseling, etc.
  • Youth Programs—Including education, summer programs, recreation, etc.
  • Elderly or Special Needs Housing—Social Services Programs—Including health, social programs, security issues, etc. for the elderly, homeless, mentally or physically disabled, etc.
  • Other—Those programs that cross categories above or are general services in support of all residents/clients.

Community Revitalization — Includes programs that have a positive economic impact on a neighborhood or city, i.e. balanced growth, economic development, job creation; creative financing, public/private partnerships, mixed-use developments, neighborhood preservation.

Administrative Innovation — Includes programs that improve the efficiency or effectiveness of administrative operations or the general functioning of the agency, i.e. management systems, maintenance, community relations, inter-agency cooperation, computer use, professional development and public relations.

Affordable Housing  Includes programs that produce affordable housing in an innovative manner, i.e. creative financing, public/private partnerships, mixed income developments, adaptive reuse, special needs housing.

Project Design — Focuses primarily on the physical or landscape design of a building or project.  (If what is most innovative is the program or financing rather than the design, the program should be entered in an Innovation Category.)  There are four types of design.

  • Project Design: New Project– For new buildings or developments.
  • Project Design: Modernization/Rehabilitation Project — For the modernization, rehabilitation, preservation, or alternative use of existing buildings, developments or areas regardless of their original architectural intent. 
  • Project Design: Enduring Design– Recognizes those projects which were completed before December 31, 2008, which show continued excellence in design and original program and in the creative aspects of its statement by today’s standards.
  • Landscape Design — Recognizes the use of landscape design to enhance the sense of community, increase security, provide recreational areas, advance environmental efficiency, or to augment natural landscapes.

Eligibility Requirements:

All applications must comply with the following standards.

  • Since the awards are meant to honor new programs, the program must have been put into operation/construction after January 1, 2016, and have produced demonstrable results by October 31, 2019.  Entries in Project Design categories must be occupied.  If the program was in existence before 2016, only major changes are eligible and should be clearly indicated in the application.
  • The nominated program, either in whole or in substantial part, may not have received a previous NAHRO Award of Merit.
  • A program may be entered in more than one category, but a separate application reflective of how it meets the intent of each category must be included as well as a separate application fee.
  • NAHRO agency/organizational members must have played a significant role in developing, implementing, or financing the program.  The agency/organization must remain a member to receive the award.
  • All steps in the application process must be completed and the application fee must be paid.
  • Only agency/organizational members of NAHRO may apply for an Award of Merit.  For more information on NAHRO membership, please visit: Organizational Membership information


All entries must comply with the following criteria:

  • The program must have produced tangible results, i.e. cost savings, enhanced productivity, improved client services, better coordination of services with others; creative financing.
  • The program must have an innovative approach,creating and using techniques and procedures that represent new and creative practices in implementing programs and resolving problems among agencies of similar size.  Successful programs typically accomplish one of the following:
    • Offer a new or expanded service; fill gaps in existing services; or tap new revenue sources.
    • Improve the administration or enhance the cost efficiency of an existing program.
    • Upgrade the working conditions of employees.
    • Provide information on agency/organization programs to the community to enhance their support.
    • Promote intergovernmental cooperation and coordination of services.
    • Promote public/private partnerships to provide new or improved services or programs.
    • Deals with community planning and redevelopment in a holistic manner considering use of land, transportation, housing, employment, community resources, etc.
  • If the program is developed in response to a government regulation, law, or funding, the program must go beyond mere compliance and must display an innovative approach to meeting those requirements.


  • All merit entries are judged on their own (not in competition with each other).
  • Entries need to score an average of 30 points from the Jury Members in order to receive an Award of Merit and an average of 40 points in order to be nominated for an Award of Excellence.
  • Those nominated for an Award of Excellence will be submitted to a National Jury and judged by category (in competiton with each other within their category).


Q: When does my payment have to arrive? A: Check payments must be recevied two weeks after the application was submitted.

Q: When does the application process close? A:  Applications need to be submitted by 12:59 pm on January 24, 2020.

Q: What if I have technical dificulties and my application does not go through or I have questions?  A:  Contact

The 2020 Application Process is Now Closed. 

Click here to complete and submit your 2020 application online

Please note that the website will automatically log you out after one hour of inactivity and you may lose your work.  If you have to leave the computer, please click “Save for Later” so that you will receive an email with a link to enable you to get back to your work.  The email is sent to the contact person’s email address.  You may wish to use Word to complete the application first and edit it so you can use that document to copy and paste into the online form. 

2020 Awards of Merit Presentations

Past Merit Award Winners:

For additional information, contact:

La Tonya Rajah 877-866-2476, ext. 7206