GIVEN CONSISTENTLY LOW INTEREST RATES and a vibrant housing market, it might appear that virtually anyone can share in the good times and purchase a home or find rental housing that meets his or her needs.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many communities across the country are seeing a growing gap between the supply of housing and the demand. And as the gap grows, millions of people across the economic spectrum are having increasing difficulty finding a home they can afford in the communities where they work.

That's why workforce housing is one of the NAHB's highest priorities. Workforce housing is housing that is affordable for teachers, police officers, and other public servants, as well as the millions of Americans in the service and retail industries. 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 of them are forced to commute long distances, live in housing that does not meet their needs, or pay far too great a share of their income for housing.

Providing workforce housing is not impossible, but it's not easy, either. Among the obstacles builders face are community opposition, excessive fees and regulations, and a lack of developable land.

GET INVOLVED To encourage the construction of workforce housing—and to showcase successful concepts that can serve as inspiration for other builders—the NAHB has created the Innovation in Workforce Housing Awards, which are open to builders, architects, designers, developers, and land planners nationwide.

If you build workforce housing or your firm is involved in producing it, I urge your company to enter this important and prestigious competition.

Eligible communities must meet the NAHB's definition of “workforce housing”: decent and affordable homes for nurses, police officers, schoolteachers, and the like near areas in which they work. Communities that were completed, that had their first unit occupied, or that opened their first model between Jan. 1, 2003, and Oct. 28, 2005, are eligible for the competition.

Applicants must submit a project statement of no more than 500 words describing the project's context, relationship to the surrounding area, and stakeholders, as well as any challenges that were overcome during the development of the project. Applicants also should submit a binder of supporting materials as appropriate, including, but not limited to, photos, floor plans, site plans, construction costs, marketing plans, and purchaser profiles. All entries (including supporting materials) must be postmarked no later than Oct. 28.

Winning entries will be selected by a panel of builders, multifamily and land development experts, and other industry professionals. Criteria include:

  • Exterior design;
  • Interior architecture;
  • Sales success;
  • Construction quality/cost efficiency;
  • Successful management of any impediments (e.g., site-related or regulatory challenges); and
  • Level of cooperation among various stakeholders (e.g., builder, developer, local and state government, area residents, etc.).
  • Winners will be notified no later than Dec. 15, and the winning entries will be announced at the 2006 International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla., in January. For more information and an official entry form, go to or call Blake Smith at 800-368-5242, ext. 8583.

    President, NAHB Washington, D.C.