In 1933, a group of housing officials came together in Chicago to form the National Association of Housing Officials (NAHO). They came from different areas, linked by a common concern for the nation's housing needs and determined to develop programs to address those needs. Their leadership resulted in the passage of the United States Housing Act of 1937, the first federal legislation which committed the federal government to assisting localities with building low rent housing and redeveloping blighted areas.
By 1937 the new organization had more than 700 members and had begun to advance the quality of public housing programs by issuing background reports and conducting research and analyses. In addition to serving as an informational clearinghouse, NAHO served as a publisher, advisor, trainer, and convener of conferences. The Association was influential in the passage of the Housing Act of 1949, which provided a new program of federal assistance for urban redevelopment and established the national housing policy of "a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family."
During this time NAHO recognized the need for a broader base to implement slum clearance and city renewal effectively. The Association expanded to include redevelopment officials and revised the NAHO constitution in 1953, changing the name of NAHO to the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO).
From the 1950s through the 1970s, NAHRO maintained its leadership role by initiating and supporting Congressional legislation, by working with the U.S. Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA)—and later with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—to achieve an effective administrative framework, and by providing technical advice to its members through conferences, publications, and training.
In the 1980s, as more initiatives evolved at the state and local levels,NAHRO played a leading role in identifying and communicating these initiatives. NAHRO also created the Management Evaluation and Improvement System (MEIS). This program was the predecessor to and stimulus for the Public Housing Management Assessment Program (PHMAP).
NAHRO has been a leader in advocating the funding of HUD low- and moderate-income programs, the production of low-income housing, in shaping housing modernization and assistance programs, and the continuing and strengthening of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and HOME programs.
NAHRO has been a leader in the deregulation of programs and the design of programs which provide the maximum flexibility at the local level.The organization played a major role in the debate and consideration of program reforms during the 1995 Congressional session.
The Association has worked steadily to promote tax policies that serve as tools for redevelopment and housing finance; and it has worked to create and provide the initial funding for the Housing Development and Law Institute (HDLI), a subscription-based organization that provides legal assistance to housing and community development agencies.
Today NAHRO continues to make its position known at HUD and in the halls of Congress. With policies based on research and analysis, NAHRO is working through these efforts to enhance the quality of life for the beneficiaries of our programs and to create strong, dynamic communities throughout the United States.