Each year, NLIHC recognizes excellence in advancing the cause of housing justice with awards for organizing and public education. The honorees will receive their awards for work completed in 2012 at the NLIHC conference on Tuesday, March 19 at the lunch plenary event.The fourth annual State and Local Organizing Award will go to the Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition (MAHC) for its work on a state-level campaign to secure an increase of $17.5 million in state funding for rental housing, through the new Rental Housing Works Initiative.Recognizing Governor Martin O’Malley’s priority of including a major jobs package in his FY13 budget, MAHC crafted a proposal for the new program, meeting with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, the governor’s office, and key legislative budget leaders, and emphasized the jobs that would be generated through greater state investment in affordable rental housing development. MAHC also coordinated outreach to the governor and the state’s Budget Secretary among its 155 member organizations. As a result of these efforts, Governor O’Malley announced that he would keep existing funding for rental housing programs intact in his FY13 budget, and requested an additional $15 million for the new initiative. Shortly after this announcement, MAHC held a Housing Day advocacy event in Annapolis. Over 200 advocates attended, meeting with their legislators and expressing support for the initiative. The legislature ultimately increased funding even beyond the governor’s request, allocating $17.5 million to the Rental Housing Works Initiative.The initiative had great success in its first year and Governor O’Malley recently included $25 million for the program in his FY14 budget, a $10 million increase over last year’s budget request.The second annual Resident Organizing Award will go to the Central Advisory Council (CAC) for its longstanding commitment to affordable and available housing for public housing residents and Housing Choice Voucher recipients in Chicago. Since the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) developed its Plan for Transformation in 2000, CAC has played an active role ensuring that tenants’ rights are fully protected, and providing comments on CHA’s Annual Plan, Moving to Work Agreement, and Housing Choice Voucher Plan.Last year, CAC submitted the 2012 Strategies and Recommendations Report to CHA. CHA ultimately used 60% of CAC’s recommendations as it developed its new Plan Forward, the next phase it the Plan for Transformation. CAC also developed a 2013 Tenant Resource Calendar and a companion piece, the Tenant Resource Guide, which were distributed to 25,000 public housing and voucher households in Chicago.Congratulations to the Maryland Affordable Housing Coalition and the Central Advisory Council!