THE HOUSING MARKET HAS BEEN VERY GOOD TO homeowners in recent years. Most markets have seen significant increases in property values; nationwide, homeowners now have more than $11 trillion in equity. The homeownership rate has also increased, and more than two-thirds of the population now own their homes.

But despite these positive developments and the housing market's exuberant performance, millions of people across the economic spectrum are having increasing difficulties finding a home they can afford in the communities where they work.

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS Police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other public servants—as well as millions of Americans in the service and retail industries—face an ongoing struggle to find affordable housing. And the problem is only intensifying for these members of the workforce as home values increase and affordable rental units are removed from the housing stock.

That's why workforce housing is one of the NAHB's highest priorities. These are the people we all depend on. They teach our children, keep our streets safe, and provide many other essential services. But because of the lack of affordable housing, many are forced to commute long distances, live in housing that does not meet their needs, or pay far too great a share of their incomes for housing.

Of course, it's not impossible to provide workforce housing, but it certainly isn't easy. And all too often, local regulations, the financial realities of home building, and the preferences of local residents prevent workforce housing from being constructed.

GETTING THE WORD OUT To recognize innovative workforce housing, encourage its construction, and make information about innovative techniques widely available, the NAHB created the Innovation in Workforce Housing Awards program, now in its second year. This award not only recognizes builders, architects, designers, developers, and land planners for their beneficial work, but it also draws public attention to the important contributions they are making to the community.

If you or your company is involved in workforce housing, I urge you to enter the competition. Communities that were completed, opened their first model, or had their first unit occupied between Jan. 1, 2004, and Oct. 27, 2006, are eligible.

Applicants must submit a project statement of no more than 500 words describing the project's context, its relationship to the surrounding area, the stakeholders, and any challenges that were overcome. They also should submit a binder of supporting materials—which can include photos, floor plans, site plans, construction costs, marketing plans, and purchaser profiles—as appropriate.

A panel of builders, multifamily and land development experts, and other industry professionals will select the winning entries. The judging criteria include:

  • Exterior design;
  • Interior architecture;
  • Sales success;
  • Construction quality/cost efficiency;
  • Successful management of any impediments, such as site-related, regulatory, or financial challenges; and
  • Level of cooperation among various stakeholders, including the builder, the developer, local and state governments, area residents, etc.
  • All entries (including supporting materials) should be postmarked by Oct. 27, 2006, to be eligible for inclusion in the competition.

    The Innovation in Workforce Housing Awards present a great opportunity to make the public more aware of the need for workforce housing, to recognize members of our industry for providing such an important community resource, and to share information about what works in this highly specialized field. By any definition, that's an award-winning combination.

    For more information, contact Blake Smith at 800-368-5242, ext. 8583, or go to

    President, NAHB Washington, D.C.

    Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.