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Assessed value

Dollar value assigned to a property against which is applied the local tax rate for determining a property’s tax liability. A property’s assessed value is generally the same as the appraisal of the market value of the property or a uniform fraction of the amount.

Area median income

Region's median household income, calculated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Often abbreviated as AMI.


Recurring funding allocations made by a committee or other authorities.

Age in place

Term for aging safely, independently, and comfortably in one's own housing. The ability to do so depends greatly on the accessibility and amenities of a home and the community.

Adaptive reuse

Process of converting a structure or landscape for usage different from what it was originally designed for, such as converting old warehouses into loft apartments.


An adaptable housing unit is a residential unit that is designed in such a way that it can be modified easily when required in the future to become accessible to the resident with disabilities without requiring costly and intensive alterations. (Source)

Acquisition funds

Funding for site development or preservation. Used for the project's pre-development costs such as legal, and design. It can also be used to provide low-cost loans to third parties.

Accessory dwelling unit

A small, self-contained unit inside of, or attached to a larger single-family home.


Accessibility refers to the extent to which a space is readily approachable and usable by people with disabilities. A space can be described as a literal space (i.e. a facility or website) or a figurative space (i.e. a conversation or activity).


Building permit

Authorization issued by the government or regulatory body that permits the construction or renovation of a home or other structures.

Building code

A set of rules established by a government agency that specifies design, building procedures, and construction details.


Long-term loan or debt security issued by corporations or the government. Typical length of maturity is 10 years or more after being issued.


Refers to housings with prices less than the area's market value. The term is interchangeable with affordable housing.


Conditional use permit

Zoning exception granted by a municipality to allow for land use otherwise not permitted by the zoning code. Typically, CUP is only granted under certain conditions that benefit the community.

Community land trust

Community-based, nonprofit organizations that manages a parcel of land to preserve long-term affordability of homes created through public or philanthropic subsidies. In the traditional housing model, community land trusts sells the homes on the land they manage at affordable prices to a qualifying homebuyer.

Community development financial institutions

Private financial institutions that provide lending and other financial services to low-income and other disadvantaged populations.

Community development corporation

Community development corporations, or CDCs, are non-profit institutions created to support and revitalize communities, typically by making direct investment in the community.

Community development block grant

A federal program established as part of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. It funds various community development activities for neighborhood revitalization, economic development, affordable housing, and better community facilities and services.


Document recording fee

A fee charged by the government for keeping public records of real estate purchase or sales. It also funds housing trust funds.


A description of variety, not equivalent to racial justice or inclusion.


A distressed community refers to any neighborhood in which has an average unemployment rate of 9 percent or more over the past three years, a poverty rate of 20 percent or more among individuals not enrolled in higher education, and/or a population decline of 5 percent or more over the past 10 years. (adapted from HUD)


The unequal treatment of members of various groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, religion, citizenship status, a combination of those identified, and/or other categories. (Source)

Density bonus

A zoning exception granted by a municipality to allow for more housing unit to be built on a given site, such as increase in dwelling units per acre, floor area ratio, or height. It is often granted to buildings that accomodate a fair share of affordable units for working families.

Demolition fee

Cost paid to a municipality by a developer in order to demolish structures. It helps to preserve affordable housing by discouraging demolition of older homes, and also serves as funding for construction of new affordable homes.

Deed restriction

Private agreements that limit the use of property, as noted in a deed. It helps to maintain the long-term affordability of homes built with significant subsidy.



Burdens or requirements imposed by a municipality or government to a developer as a condition of particular development projects.


Equity is both the process and the outcome that occurs when practices or policies intentionally remedy or counteract previous practices and policies that disparately impacted some demographic groups.


The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities; a term often used in the context of economic justice.

Employer-assisted housing

Housing assistance provided by employers. Includes assistance with grants, loans, downpayments, security deposits, and homeownership education and counseling.


Forgivable loan

Loans that are partially or entirely forgiven for a specified period of time, if requirements are met.


General obligation bond

Bond issued by the state or local government, which uses tax revenues to repay bond holders. They can be used to fund affordable homes that typically cannot generate enough revenue to repay bond holders. Issuing general obligation bond often requires vote of the electorate.


Housing trust fund

Local fund dedicated to increase and preserve the supply of affordable homes for extremely-low and very-low income households, including homeless families. The funds are more flexibly used than federal programs, because the revenue is locally-generated.

Housing counseling agency

Agencies that provides advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues. HUD approved housing counseling agencies can be found on the official HUD website.

Housing choice voucher

Officially known as "Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher". It is the largest and most sought after housing program in America. Section 8 HCVs are managed by various public housing agencies (most commonly referred to as housing authorities), which falls under the supervision of HUD. Program participants typically pay 30% of the rent, and the rest is covered by the HCV.


A federal program by HUD aimed to revitalize decaying public housing projects, often into mixed-income developments. Grants are chosen based on a competition held by HUD.

Home modification

Retrofits and improvements done on homes to increase accessibility for older adults and people with disabilities.


Federal program established by Congress in 1990 that is designed to increasing decent affordable housing for low- and very low-income families and individuals. State and localities receive HOME fund from HUD each year, and spend it on things such as: rental assistance, assistance to homebuyers, new construction, rehabilitation, improvements, demlition, relocation, and administrative costs.


The word Hispanic refers to people of Spanish-speaking descent. This encompasses countries from Latin America and Spain but excludes Brazil because their national language is Portuguese. Due to its use in the Census, this term will be used when using or referencing Census data.

high-cost region

A region can be high-cost even if some parts of the region are more affordable than others.


Institutional racism

The practices that perpetuate racial disparities, uphold White supremacy, and serve to the detriment and harm of persons of color and keep them in negative cycles. Institutional/systemic racism also refers to policies that generate different outcomes for persons of different races. These laws, policies, and practices are not necessarily explicit in mentioning any racial group, but work to create advantages for White persons and disadvantages for people of color. Throughout LocalHousingSolutions.org, the terms "institutional" and "systemic racism" may be used interchangeably. (Source.)

Income targeting

A policy that requires a certain percentage of newly available affordable housing to be for families with certain incomes. Under federal law, 40% of newly available affordable housing units must be provided to families with income below 30% of the area median income.

Inclusionary zoning

Regulation or incentive to include units within a development for low- and moderate-income families. Also referred to as inclusionary housing.


A state of belonging, when persons of different backgrounds and identities are valued, integrated, and welcomed equitably as decision-makers and collaborators. Inclusion involves people being given the opportunity to grow and feel/know they belong. (Source.)

Inadequate housing

Housing with severe or moderate physical problems, as defined in the American Housing Survey (AHS) since 1984.  (Read more.)

In-lieu fee

Fee charged to developers by some municipalities in exchange for not including affordable units within the development. Fees are deposited into the housing trust fund, which is later used to build more affordable homes. In some cities, in-lieu fees are lower than the cost of having on-site affordable units, in which case developers opt to pay the fee.

Implicit Bias

A belief or attitude that affects our understanding, decision, and actions, and that exists without our conscious awareness. (Source.)

Impact fee

Fee typically charged to the developer by a local government for providing public infrastructure such as water and sewer. Developers sometimes pass the fee onto the homebuyer by charging a higher price for the home.


Joint development

A project where private developers and public transit agencies work under a partnership. Revenue- or cost-sharing partnership means both parties split the revenue or cost of the project, and co-development partnership refers to a non-financial arrangement where the parties coordinate their projects.



Defined as 80 percent of the median family income for the area, subject to adjustments for areas with unusually high or low incomes or housing costs

low-cost region

A region can be generally affordable even if it includes some high-cost cities or neighborhoods.

Low income housing tax credit

A dollar-for-dollar tax reduction against federal tax liability, provided to developers based on the criteria set out in the states' qualified allocations plan. It is the primary source of funding for increasing and preserving supply of affordable rental homes.

Longitudinal tract data base (LTDB)

The LTDB provides public use tools for creating estimates for 2010 census tract boundaries by adjusting any tract-level data in prior years as early as 1970. They also make available for download LTDB Standard datasets, which include select census variables from prior years of the decennial census adjusted to 2010 tract boundaries.

Limited equity cooperative

A type of equity homeownership arrangement that allows low-income families to purchase a "share" in a cooperative. An individual with a share is entitled to one unit in the cooperative, and a say in the decision-making regarding the development. At the time of a resale, the return that share owners can earn is limited in order to maintain the affordability of the shares for future purchasers.


An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer.” The plus (+) is inclusive of all other expressions of gender identity and sexual orientation.


Latinx is a gender-neutral term that is used as an alternative to Latino/a. It refers to people whose origin or ancestry is in Latin America and excludes Spain. Geographic location is what separates this term from Hispanic or Spanish. However, due to terminology differences, the term "Hispanic" may be used on this site whenever describing Census data.

Land contract

A land contract is a form of seller financing similar to a mortgage, but between a buyer and a real estate owner rather than a lender or bank. When the contract terms are satisfied, including full payment of the purchase price, the legal title of the property transfers from the seller to the buyer.

Land bank

Public entities that acquire, manage, maintain, and repurpose distressed properties -- particularly vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed ones.



Households whose incomes are between 81 percent and 95 percent of the median income for the area, as determined by HUD, with adjustments to this ceiling for smaller or larger families or within areas with above-average prevailing levels of construction costs, fair market rents, or unusually high or low area median family incomes.

Moderate Focus

A pillar is a Moderate Focus of a housing strategy when the strategy addresses it, but in a minor or secondary way, such as by including only one policy of modest projected impact from the pillar.

Model code

A building code made by an organization independent of the local government. It ensures consistency in code requirements and enforcement. Many local jurisdiction adopt the model code, then add amendments to reflect the local conditions.


A building or site that integrates various uses such as office, commercial, institutional, and residential.


Developments that houses families with different levels of income. It is meant to decrease concentrated poverty, and provide lower-income families with the amenities of a resource-rich neighborhood.


The process by which members of a dominant group relegate a particular group to the edge of society by not allowing them an active voice, identity, or place for the purpose of maintaining power. (Source.)

Manufactured home

Houses partially or wholly built in a factory, then brought to the site for assembly and installation. Also referred to as prefabricated homes.


Net operating income

The annual difference between a building’s income and expenses.



A law adopted by a local government pertaining to an issue within its legal power.


Publicly-owned land

Land owned by the government including school buildings, public hospitals, and parking lots, among others.

Public housing

A federal program dedicated to providing decent and safe rental housing for low-income families, older adults, and persons with disabilities. There are around 1.2 million houesholds residing in public housing units, managed by over 3,000 housing authorities. Programs differ in types and sizes.


The ability to define, set, or change situations; the ability to influence others to believe, behave, or adopt values as those in power desire.

Planned unit development

A type of development in which land uses and densities is approved by a unit, rather than by a lot.

People or families experiencing homelessness

This term includes individuals and families:

  • Who are living in a place not meant for human habitation, in emergency shelter, in transitional housing, or are exiting an institution where they temporarily resided.
  • Are losing or have lost their primary nighttime residence, which may include a motel or hotel or a doubled up situation.
  • Who are fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, have no other residence, and lack the resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing.


Qualified allocation plan

A criteria for receiving federal low-income housing tax credits laid out by a state housing finance agency.



A term to define neighborhoods that offer abundant amenities, such as access to quality schools and public libraries, streets and parks that are free from violence and provide a safe place to play, and fresh and healthy food.

Related Resources

These resources provide helpful information on the topic and include sources relied upon in preparing this brief.

Rehabilitation code

Codes aimed to make renovations of new homes easier, while also addressing modern safety concerns.


To provide new funding for old, distressed properties for maintenance or upgrade. Multifamily developments often needs to be recapitalized after a certain number of years.

Real estate transfer tax

A fee charged by a state, county, or municipality when the ownership of a property is transferred from one party to another. This tax is sometimes put into the local housing trust fund.

Racial disparity

An unequal outcome one racial group experiences as compared to the outcome for another racial group.


A social and political construction—with no inherent genetic or biological basis—used by social institutions to arbitrarily categorize and divide groups of individuals based on physical appearance (particularly skin color), ancestry, cultural history, and ethnic classification. (Source.)


Systemic racism

The practices that perpetuate racial disparities, uphold White supremacy, and serve to the detriment and harm of persons of color and keep them in negative cycles. Institutional/systemic racism also refers to policies that generate different outcomes for persons of different races. These laws, policies, and practices are not necessarily explicit in mentioning any racial group, but work to create advantages for White persons and disadvantages for people of color. Throughout LocalHousingSolutions.org, the terms "institutional" and "systemic racism" may be used interchangeably. (Source.)

Substantial Focus

A pillar is a Substantial Focus of a housing strategy when the strategy includes policies falling within multiple functional subcategories of that pillar or at least one policy projected to have a large impact.

Structural racism

Historical, social, political, institutional, and cultural factors that contribute to, legitimize, and maintain racial inequities; the confluence of racist concepts and theories that control economic, political, and social systems. (Source.)

Softening housing market

Although there is no standard industry definition, a softening market refers to any neighborhood, market area, or region that demonstrates a decline in prices or deterioration in other market conditions as evidenced by an oversupply of existing inventory or extended marketing times. (adapted from HUD)

Soft housing market

Although there is no standard industry definition, a softening market refers to any neighborhood, market area, or region that demonstrates a decline in prices or deterioration in other market conditions as evidenced by an oversupply of existing inventory or extended marketing times. (adapted from HUD)


Refers to a "soft housing market." Although there is no standard industry definition, a softening housing market refers to any neighborhood, market area, or region that demonstrates a decline in prices or deterioration in other market conditions as evidenced by an oversupply of existing inventory or extended marketing times. (adapted from HUD)

small and mid-sized cities

Cities with populations between 50,000-500,000. Small and mid-sized cities throughout the country face many similar challenges, such as a lack of the necessary resources, expertise, and networks necessary to develop and implement effective policy responses.

Shared appreciation mortgage

Also known as shared appreciation loan. In this loan, the borrower must pay back the original loan plus a portion of the appreciation in the value of the property when the borrower sells the house. Because of this, the interest on the loan is lower than market rate.


A senior person household is a household composed of one or more persons at least one of whom is 62 years of age or more at the time of initial occupancy.

Section 8

A federal program that assists low-income households afford rental housing. The tenant-based program allows the voucher holders to choose any unit that meets the program requirements; project-based program ensures selected units to remain affordable regardless of the tenant. In both cases, the voucher holder is responsible for paying about 30% of the unit including utilities, and the government covers the balance.

Section 202

Federal program overseen by HUD aimed to aid housing for older adults. It provides very low-income elderly with options that allow them to live independently in a safe environment.


Term sheets

Non-binding agreements setting forth the basic terms and conditions under which a loan or investment will be made.

Tax-exempt private activity bonds

A tax-exempt bond issued by the state government to fund public projects, and are an important source of funding for affordable housing.

Tax-delinquent property

A site or a building which has significant outstanding tax payments.

Tax increment financing

A powerful finacing tool that allows underdeveloped communities to secure funding for a public project by borrowing against incremental tax revenue expected to be received after the completion of the project.

Tax abatement

Reduction or elimination of taxes granted to property owners by the government in order to stimulate publicly beneficial activities, such as investment in capital equipment.


Universal design

Design that improves accessibility for all persons including older adults and persons with disability.

Universal design

Design that improves accessibility for all persons, including older adults and persons with disabilities.



Modifications done on existing buildings to improve energy-efficiency and cut down utility costs, such as the installation of new windows and doors.


Zoning code

A set of local codes that dictates use and development of property. It establishes what type of developments --commercial, residential, industrial, etc.-- are allowed to be built on specific areas, and lays out the building standards for each area such as minimum lot sizes, maximum height, setbacks, and yard sizes.

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