Awards of Merit

About the Program:

The NAHRO Agency Awards Program gives national recognition to the achievement and innovation of NAHRO agency/organizational members; 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 runs from January to April.

The first program tier, the Awards of Merit, accepts applications submitted to National NAHRO in five categories, which are sent to Regional Juries for review.  The second program tier, the Awards of Excellence, accepts Regional Jury nominations from the Awards of Merit winners, which are sent to National Juries for awards selection. Up to 24 Awards of Excellence may be presented in a given year.

The Awards Application consists of two main parts:
Program Summary — describes the program in 700 characters with spaces or less
A Program Narrative — detailed overview addressing a set list of questions/topics in 15,000 characters with spaces or less 

Awards Information:

Click on the 2023 awards process guidelines below.

Award Categories


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.


5. 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 one of the other categories listed above.)  There are four types of design.

  • New — For new buildings or developments.
  • Modernization/Rehabilitation — For the modernization, rehabilitation, preservation, or alternative use of existing buildings, developments or areas regardless of their original architectural intent. 
  • 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.
  • Enduring Design — Recognizes projects completed before Dec. 31, 2012, which show continued excellence in design, original program, and in creative aspects of its statement by today’s standards. The Dec. 31, 2012 date only applies to the Enduring Design category and not to any other entries.

Eligibility Requirements:

All applications must comply with the following standards.

For the 2023 awards cycle, the program must have been put into operation/construction with a begin date after Jan. 1, 2019, have produced demonstrable results by Oct. 31, 2022, with an end date no later than December 31, 2022.  If the program was in existence before 2019, only major changes are eligible, between the dates noted above, and should be clearly indicated in the application.

Entries in Project Design categories must be occupied. 

The nominated program, either in whole or in substantial part, may not have received a previous NAHRO Award of Merit. (To search a list of past winners, NAHRO agency and organizational members may visit the Best Practices Database.)

A program may be entered in more than one category, but a separate application indicating 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.

New ProcedureAll steps in the application process must be completed and the application fee must be paid at the time of submission. No Refunds except in the case of a 2023 application duplication.

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.

Application Deadline and Fees

Please note: You may wish to use Microsoft Word to write up the summary and narrative descriptions first and then use that document to copy and paste into the online form.  

Note: If you are working on the application and need to return to it, make sure to click “save for later” button. Do not check the terms and conditions box, until you are ready to move to the shopping cart and pay, as you cannot go back from this point.


  • All Awards of Merit entries are judged on their own (not in competition with each other).
  • Awards of Merit 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.
  • Award of Excellence nominees, who will be competing with other nominees within their respective categories, will be submitted to a National Jury and judged by category.

Awards Application Process

Step 1: Check the Best Practices Database for your entry to ensure your submission has not previously won an award, then make sure it adheres to the category and eligibility requirements.

Step  2:  Summarize the Program
In 700 characters or less, briefly describe the program including the problem, the innovative solution, and results. (The application only accepts 700 characters for the summary.)  This summary will be used to describe the program in the NAHRO Awards Catalog and in the “Best Practices Database” on the NAHRO website).

Step  3: Provide a Program Narrative
In 15,000 characters or less, create an overview of the program that addresses the questions/topics below.  Each question/ topic will be judged based on the point listed below.  The overview should read as a narrative and each question/topic should flow easily into the next. Award entries in each category must address all topics below. Failure to do so renders the entry incomplete.

(48 points plus 2 additional general impression points = 50)

Resident and Client Services, Community Revitalization, Administration Innovation and Affordable Housing)

Description and Background of the ProgramDiscuss the problem/need that prompted the development of the program.  Provide a description of the program including its objectives, the time frame for development/ implementation, and the clientele being served.

  • ROLE OF AGENCY/ ORGANIZATION (Value 5 points): What was the specific role of the agency/organization in development, financing, and administration of the program?  What was the specific contribution, if any, of other partners?
  • THE RESULTS/SUCCESS OF THE PROGRAM (Value 14 points): How did the program meet its objectives? Be specific about what was accomplished.  What obstacles were overcome?  How many persons were served? Did it save money?  How did it improve delivery or services?   
  • THE TOTAL COST/FINANCING OF THE PROGRAM (Value 6 points): What operating and capital costs were incurred? What was the value received for the funds expended? Include a list of all the funding sources and the amounts.  How were these funds leveraged? Are there any additional expenses that would be necessary to replicate the program?
  • INNOVATION (Value 6 points): What is new about this program? How is this program innovative for an agency/ organization of your size? If other agencies have similar programs, what is your unique solution?
  • ONGOING ACTIVITIES (Value 4 points): What plans do the agency/organization have to continue this program?  If it uses primarily federal funds, what might be done if the funding is reduced?
  • REPLICABILITY (Value 4 points): How easily could this project be replicated by another agency/organization in a different locale?
  • CREATIVELY ADDRESSING A CHALLENGE (Value 5 points): What challenge(s) prompted your agency/organization to create the program?  What was the unique solution developed to face the challenge?  What steps were involved?
  • DIVERSITY, EQUITY, and INCLUSION (Value 4 points): Does the program address any social determinants of health such as becoming access points for economic stability, education, social and community context, health and neighborhood and built environments (architectural landscaping, urban planning).

(50 points)

  • DESCRIPTION OF THE DESIGN (Value 15 points): Provide a description of the design.  What are the design goals of the project and how did it meet the goals?    What is the time frame for development and was it met? What obstacles, if any, were encountered, and how were they handled?  How did the project enhance a sense of community, create a quality environment for residents, increase security, provide recreation, advance environmental efficiency, increase water conservation, or augment natural resources? 
  • SUSTAINABILITY/USE OF MATERIALS (Value 10 Points): How is the project cited from a sustainability perspective? (Access to public transportation, shopping, community facilities, etc.) What features were included to increase the project’s manageability or livability?  What sustainable building products were used?  What is the life cycle costing?  How is the project designed for ease of management, long-term maintenance?   What storm water management features were incorporated into the design? How do the use of energy efficient materials, appliances and systems, including HVAC and plumbing, compare to the local code requirements?
  • DESIGN AND RELATIONSHIP TO SURROUNDINGS (Value 7 Points): How does the design relate to its surroundings? How does it fit into its environment?  How does it enhance its surroundings?  What impact did it have on the surrounding community?   How were the prospective residents considered in the design? 
  • TOTAL COST/FINANCING OF THE PROJECT (Value 5 Points): What were the total development costs and per unit costs?  How do these costs compare to similar projects in your area?  Include information on type of materials used and any special energy or cost-saving measures which may account for significant price differentials from local standards.  Give a list of all funding sources. 
  • ROLE OF AGENCY/ORGANIZATION (Value 5 Points): What was the specific role of the agency or organization in development, financing, and administration of the program?  What was the specific contribution, if any, of other partners?
  • INNOVATION (Value 4 points): What is innovative about the design?  How does the design support the planned functions of the building?
  • DIVERSITY, EQUITY, and INCLUSION (Value 4 points): Does the design address/provide universal housing choice vouchers, income discrimination, ensure FMR rates promote inclusive neighborhoods, consider how zoning can be an impediment to affordable housing expansion and racial equity, etc.

Step 4: Provide Images

All attachments must not exceed a total of 7MB total without being zipped.  If your attachments exceed the limit, they will not be accepted.  PDF is the preferable format for attachments.

Innovative Category – Entries may submit up to five photos to help explain or showcase the program.

Project Design Category – Entries must submit up to 15 color photos that show the various aspects of the finished project including its exterior, interior, standard unit, etc. The photos should show its placement in the community and the surrounding community. If it is in modernization/rehabilitation, you must include before and after photos.  Required drawings include vicinity plan/context plan; site plan; floor plan of main floor of building; floor plans of typical units; landscape plan.

Step 5: Agree to Terms/Conditions, Submit Application, and Pay Online.


Q: Is there a way I can pay by credit card online?
A: Yes, once you to agree to terms and conditions and submit, you will be taken to checkout where you will pay by credit card and your receipt will arrive via email.

Q. If I agree to terms and conditions, can I go back to make changes to the submission?
A: No. If you are not yet ready to submit, hit save for later and you will be able to go back. Once you enter terms and conditions, you can only go forward to checkout.

Q. If I begin my application and save for later, can I get the rate I began the application or the day I pay?
A. The fee is based on the rate on the day of payment early bird fee $50, regular fee $75, and late fee $150.

Q: Can I pay by check?
A: No. Only credit card payments are accepted at time of checkout.

Q: When does the application process close?
A:  Applications need to be submitted by 11:59 pm on April 21, 2022.

Q: What if I have technical difficulties and my application does not go through or I have questions

Past Merit Award Winners:

For additional information, contact:

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