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 first program tier, the Awards of Merit, accepts applications submitted to National NAHRO in five categories, which are sent to Regional Juries for review.  Here’s a quick overview of the 2024 Awards of Merit application process (PDF).

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 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, 2013, which show continued excellence in design, original program, and in creative aspects of its statement by today’s standards. The Dec. 31, 2013 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 2024 awards cycle, the program must have been put into operation/construction from Jan. 1, 2020 – October 31, 2023. If a project continues after this timeframe, only include results within the timeframe noted above.
  • If the program was in existence before 2020, 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, cannot be a past NAHRO Award of Merit recipient. (To search a list of past winners, NAHRO agency and organizational members please check the Best Practices Database before applying).
  • 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 submitted and a separate application fee remitted.
  • 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 payment remitted at the time of submission. No Refunds, except in the case of a 2024 application duplication.


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 an application and need to return to it, make sure to click “save for later” button.

Do not click Checkout, until you are ready to move to the shopping cart and pay. When ready, click yes to agree to terms/conditions, then proceed to checkout.

Early Bird DeadlineMarch 15$50 entry fee
Regular DeadlineApril 12$150 entry fee


  • All Awards of Merit entries are judged on their own (not in competition with each other).
  • Awards of Merit entries must score an average of 30 points from the Jury Members in order to receive an Award of Merit and an average of 40 points 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: Select from Five Categories

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


Step 3: Provide a Program Summary and Narrative

Program SummaryIn 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.  Every word, number, abbreviation, and space between words is counted. This summary will be used to describe the program in the NAHRO Awards Catalog and in the “Best Practices Database” on the NAHRO website.)

Program Narrative In 15,000 characters or less, create an overview of the program that addresses the questions/topics listed in the category criteria (every word, number, abbreviation, and space between words is counted).  Each question/topic will be judged based on the points listed in the criteria.  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 listed in the category criteria. Failure to do so renders the entry incomplete.

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: Submit Application and Pay Online.


Q: Can I pay by credit card online?
A: Yes, once you click Checkout, you will be taken to the shopping cart where you will pay by credit card and your receipt will arrive via email. Check payments, bill me later, purchase orders, and ACH options are not available.

Q. Can I add multiple applications to one shopping cart?
A. No, you must remit payment on each application separately.

Q. Can I start an application and pay later?
A. Yes, you may save for later and return to Checkout.

Q: When does the application process close?
A: The Award of Merit application process will close April 12, 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time

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

Past Merit Award Winners:

For additional information, contact: