Awards of Merit

The 2021 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 will open in early 2022.

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 nominated by the Regional Juries from the Awards of Merit winners and sent to National Juries for final selection. Up to 24 Awards of Excellence may be presented in a given year.

The Awards Application consists of two main parts.  A Program Summary that describes the program in 700 characters or less and a Program Narrative that creates a detailed overview of the program that addresses a set list of questions/topics in 15,000 characters or less. 

For more information, please review the 2021 Awards Flyer or see below. 

Award Categories:

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

  • 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.

  • 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 those projects which were completed before December 31, 2010, which show continued excellence in design and original program and in the creative aspects of its statement by today’s standards.

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, 2017, and have produced demonstrable results by October 31, 2020.  Entries in Project Design categories must be occupied.  If the program was in existence before 2017, 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.

Application, Deadline, Fees

The 2021 Application Process is now closed. 2021 application online

Please note: You may wish to use Word to write up the summary and narrative descriptions first and then use that document to copy and paste into the online form.  
  • Early Bird Deadline: November 20, 2020 ($50 application fee per entry)
  • Regular Deadline: December 18, 2020 ($75 application fee per entry)
  • Late Deadline: January February 22, 2021 – New Deadline ($150 application fee per entry)


  • 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: Payments must be received within three weeks of submitting the application.

Q. Is there a way I can pay by credit card online?A: Yes!  Once your order has been entered in our system (please allow two-three days for processing), your Executive Director or Agency Primary Contact can login to the NAHRO website and use the Associate Portal to pay online, get confirmation that submission has been received and get their payment receipt in real-time.  All others will follow instructions on the online form for credit card and check payments.

Q: When does the application process close?
A:  Applications need to be submitted by 12:59 pm on February 22, 2021.

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

2020 Awards of Merit Presentations

Past Merit Award Winners:

For additional information, contact:

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