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We want to make sure people understand the words and terms around affordable housing, because a deep understanding is needed to have meaningful, productive conversations about solving this challenge.  Use the glossary below to become familiar with the affordable housing sector’s terms.

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Accessory Dwelling Unit

A secondary dwelling unit created within or as an extension of an existing dwelling that contains separate bath and kitchen facilities.

Adaptive Reuse

The conversion of non-residential properties such as mills, schools, hospitals, military bases, motels, warehouses, office buildings, etc. into residential or mixed uses.

Affordable Housing

Housing that costs no more than 30% of a household’s income is considered to be “affordable” for that household. More specifically, “affordable housing” meets this 30% standard for low-income households (i.e. households earning below 80% of the area median income). For owners, housing costs include principal, interest, property taxes and hazard insurance. For renters, costs include rent and tenant-paid utilities (except telephone and cable).

Affordable Housing Fund

A subsidy funding program of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the official governing body that oversees savings and loan institutions.


The gradual repayment of a mortgage by installments.

Area Median Income (AMI)

The estimated median income, adjusted for family size, by metropolitan area (or county, in non-metropolitan areas). AMI is updated annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and used as the basis of eligibility for most housing assistance programs.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

Created by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is a federal program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs.

Community Development Corporation (CDC)

A loosely defined term for a nonprofit organization that undertakes commercial or residential real estate development. It usually, but not always, indicates some targeting of efforts to a low-income neighborhood.

Community Land Trust

A form of ownership similar to a condominium in that each household owns an individual unit, but not the land beneath it. However, in a community land trust, the common areas and land are owned by a nonprofit, community-based corporation. Because land values are controlled and this is a limited-equity form of ownership, it maintains long-term affordability.

Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)

A federal law that encourages lenders to make residential and commercial loans to low-income and minority people, and/or in low-income areas.

Congregate Housing

Housing accommodation that offers separate rooms or apartments but provides shared activities of daily living with other residents.

Conventional Financing

In the low-income housing industry, a term often used to refer to any loan made with non-subsidy sources. Among private, single-family lenders, a term to describe a loan that is made with a minimum 20% down payment and conventional underwriting criteria—a maximum 80% loan-to-value ratio and maximum 28/36 underwriting ratios. See “loan-to-value ratio” and “underwriting ratios.”

Co‐operative (co‐op)

A form of shared ownership housing where all residents own stock in the corporation that owns the property. They do not own their units, but co‐op share ownership entitles a resident to a long‐term lease on a unit and a vote in the governance of the property. Limited equity cooperatives are a form of affordable, resident‐controlled homeownership in which the individual share purchase prices are very low so that the resident does not need mortgage financing to buy in. Like rental properties, co‐ops may be syndicated to raise money for the construction.

Down Payment Assistance

Grants or low interest loans given to lower income home buyers help to fund down payment and/or closing costs—usually in the range of $2,000 to $5,000. Less commonly, the term is used to refer to any second mortgage financing in any amount.

Entitlement Community (also called entitlement jurisdiction)

A city or urban county of at least 50,000 in population making it eligible for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds directly from HUD.

Expiring Use Restrictions

Refers to affordable housing where the restrictions on rents and/or incomes of occupants could or will expire in the near future if owners prepay their publicly assisted mortgages and convert the units to market rate housing. The units were built with federal and/or state subsidies (such as low cost mortgages, interest subsidies, rent subsidies and loan guarantees). While mortgages and other assistance often had terms as long as 30‐40 years, many gave owners the option to prepay the mortgage after 20 years and thus remove use restrictions on the property.

Extremely Low Income

Adjusted income that is below 30% of the area median income (AMI) adjusted for household size and for the county or Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Fair Housing Act/MA Fair Housing Act

Federal legislation, first enacted in 1968 and expanded by amendments in 1974 and 1988, that provides the Secretary of HUD with investigation and enforcement responsibilities for fair housing practices. The law prohibits discrimination in housing and lending based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or familial status.

Fair Market Rents (FMRs)

Maximum rents allowed by HUD in the Section 8 rental assistance program. Updated and published annually, FMRs represent HUD’s estimate of the actual market rent for an apartment in the conventional marketplace. HUD sets FMRs by unit size (0 bedroom, 1 bedroom, etc.) and regions within each state. The current FMRs are posted on HUD’s website.

Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC)

Created by the State Legislature more than 40 years ago to assist in providing a range of affordable housing opportunities for residents that help make Florida communities great places in which to live, work and do business.

Future Land Use

A classification of a property that explains what types of development can be built on that property in the future (e.g. agricultural, residential, industrial, mining, recreational).

Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME)

A HUD-administered federal program that provides funding for local communities to provide affordable housing for low- and very low-income residents via construction or acquisition/rehabilitation subsidies for affordable housing developers, purchase assistance and gap financing for homebuyers, rehabilitation assistance for homeowners and tenant-based rental assistance.

Homeownership Pool Program (HOP)

Designed to be a non-competitive and ongoing program, where developers by way of an online system have the ability to reserve funds for eligible homebuyers to provide purchase assistance on a first-come, first-served basis.

Housing Choice Vouchers

Allow very low-income households to choose and lease privately-owned rental units. The main federal rental assistance program, vouchers are administered by local public housing agencies. Vouchers are provided to eligible households, and they find their own housing (must meet program health and safety requirements). Housing voucher recipients must pay 30 percent of their monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities. The PHA calculates the maximum amount of allowable assistance as the area moderate-priced unit standard minus 30 percent of the household’s income.

Housing Payment Ratio

In single-family lending, the percentage of a borrower’s income that will be spent on the housing payment after a home purchase, refinancing or home renovation refinancing. This includes payments of loan principal, interest, real estate taxes and insurance (called PITI).

Land Use Restrictive Agreement (LURA)

Whereby an owner gives up some of their rights of the land use in exchange for the promise of future tax credits; limits the maximum rent that can be charged for a unit and requires that some or all of the units be made available only to households with incomes below a percentage (e.g. 40%, 60%, 80%) of the AMI.


A document recorded in public records that represents a debt owed on the property. Examples of liens include: a recorded mortgage deed, a lien for unpaid taxes and a mechanic’s lien representing construction work on a property that was not paid for.

Low Income

Adjusted income that is between 50 and 80% of the area median income (AMI) adjusted for household size and for the county or Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Low‐Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)

Federal tax credit for developers of affordable housing. States receive an annual dollar value of credits which they then allocate to qualifying projects based on priorities established in a state allocation plan. Two available credits are: credits for new construction and substantial rehabilitation projects without other direct federal subsidies worth up to 9% of eligible development costs annually for the first 10 years of the project’s life; and for projects that entail moderate rehabilitation, are financed by tax-exempt bonds and/or receive certain other federal subsidies, credits up to 4% of eligible development costs annually for a decade. The Florida Housing Finance Corporation administers the state’s program.

Market Rate

Area rent levels for units without any subsidy or assistance from a public program.

Mixed Income Housing Development

Development that includes housing affordable to various income levels.

Mixed Use Development

Projects that combine different types of development such as residential, commercial, office, industrial and institutional into one project.

Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP)

Created by Congress at the height of the 2008 recession to help communities arrest and reverse blight and property value decline in neighborhoods most impacted by foreclosures and predatory lending. Funds were provided in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and though expenditure deadlines have passed, many grantees have and are continuing to earn program income.

Opportunity Zones

Created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, they are an economic development tool to spur economic growth and job creation in low-income communities in the U.S. while providing tax benefits to investors.

Predevelopment Loan Program (PLP)

Offers technical assistance and low-interest loans of up to $750,000 for common predevelopment expenses such as land acquisition, appraisals, title searches, market studies, environmental reviews, and legal, permit, impact, site plan, architectural and engineering fees.

Rent Control

These anti-gentrification ordinances limit the amount that a landlord can raise the rent, typically by setting an allowable annual percentage increase. Some ordinances also limit the amount the rent can be raised once a unit is vacant (i.e. between renters).

Rent Subsidies

Term typically used to describe HUD’s Section 8 program, which subsidize, the rent of low-income tenants in privately-owned apartments and are typically administered by local housing authorities. There are two types of subsidies with only slight technical differences—certificates and vouchers. Generally, tenants pay 30% of income for rent and utilities and HUD pays the rest directly to the landlord. Some other HUD funding programs for supportive housing and special needs housing can be used for rent subsidies. Some local governments sometimes provide rent subsidies or stipends with their own funds.

Section 8

A HUD program (officially called the Housing Choice Voucher Program) providing funding for rental assistance to low‐income households. Participating tenants typically pay 30% of their income for housing (rent and utilities) and the federal subsidy pays the balance of the rent.

Single-Family Mortgage Revenue Bond

FHFC program through which first-time homebuyers (FTHB), veterans or buyers within a federally designated targeted area can receive low-interest financing to participating lenders plus down payment assistance.

State Apartment Incentive Loan Program (SAIL)

Administered by the FHFC and provides low-interest loans on a competitive basis to developers proposing to construct or substantially rehabilitate affordable multi-family rental housing; funds bridge the gap between the development’s primary financing and the total cost of the development—generally covering 25-35% of development costs.

State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP)

Created in 1992 as part of the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Act, the program’s mission is to provide funding to eligible local governments for the implementation of programs that create and preserve affordable housing, foster public-private partnerships to create and preserve affordable housing and encourage local governments to implement regulatory reforms and promote the development of affordable.

Subsidized Housing

There are two general types of housing subsidies: 1) development subsidies (supply side) to help construct or acquire housing, and 2) operating subsidies (demand side) that supplement the amount that residents can pay.

Transitional Housing

A loosely defined term covering a number of housing facilities that serve the formerly homeless, people trying to get off welfare or people released from institutions. Usually, the term of stay is restricted to one to two years. The most common form is apartments or shared living facilities for the formerly homeless or single female parents with children. When treatment and supervision is involved, a facility is usually called a halfway house or group home.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

An executive department of the U.S. federal government that administers federal housing and urban development laws.

Very Low Income

Adjusted income below 50% of the area median income (AMI) adjusted for household size and for the county or Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Workforce Housing

Most commonly intended for households with incomes between 80 and 120% of AMI, which exceeds qualifying income for traditional affordable housing subsidies.


The classification of land by a) types of uses permitted and prohibited and b) by densities and intensities permitted and prohibited in a given district, including regulations regarding building location on lots.

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