20 Must-Know Affordable Housing Terms

This market sector has a vocabulary all its own. NHP Foundation's Jason Soifer reviews the key expressions and their definitions.

Jason Soifer

Affordable housing is a dynamic industry with new technologies, best practices, and trends entering the field rapidly. One of the industry’s distinguishing characteristics is its specific terminology. Understanding key phrases and acronyms related to affordable housing is essential for clear communication among policymakers, developers, funders, construction professionals, design professionals, and current and potential residents.

Below, we’ll delve into 20 must-know terms shaping the landscape of affordable housing in 2024.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU): A secondary housing unit on a single-family residential lot, providing additional rental income or serving as affordable housing options.

ADA (The Americans with Disabilities Act): Civil Rights Law ensuring equality in the built environment for people with disabilities.

Anti-Density Zoning: Ordinances limiting housing unit density, hindering multifamily housing development and contributing to housing shortages.

ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act): Federal relief funding plan supporting various sectors including affordable housing.

BEPS (Building Energy Performance Standard): Sustainability benchmark for construction or renovation projects.

BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color): Protected group under the Fair Housing Act to combat housing discrimination.

BPS (Basis Points): Measure representing 1/100 of 1 percent, affecting property taxable value and tax credits.

Deferred Development Fee: The surplus fee collected by a developer after a project’s completion, exceeding jurisdictional limits on fees earned during construction. It’s paid from the building’s cashflow post-debt service, often utilized to bridge funding gaps and mitigate project risks.

Equitable Development: emphasizes the importance of fair and inclusive approaches to urban planning and community development, ensuring that all residents, regardless of income or background, benefit from economic growth and investment in housing and infrastructure.

Faith-Based Housing: Religious organizations partnering with developers to create affordable housing, most often with onsite resident and supportive services.

Family-Centered Coaching: Programs providing support and resources, offered so that low to moderate income families can achieve stability and self-sufficiency.

MWSBE (Minority and/or Women-owned and/or Small Business Enterprise): Certification for businesses meeting specific criteria for participation in projects.

NOAH (Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing): Existing housing units that are affordable to low and moderate income households without government subsidies.

OAC (Owner/Architect/Contractor): Core entities of project teams attending construction meetings.

Passive House Design: Energy-efficient buildings with minimal heating and cooling needs, utilizing passive techniques to reduce energy consumption and utility costs; (solar power for example) and incentives for performance benchmarks.

PSH (Permanent Supportive Housing): Affordable housing combined with support services including mental health case and substance issues management for individuals transitioning from homelessness or instability.

Resident Services: Supportive programs and resources for affordable housing residents, including childcare, job training, financial literacy, aging in place, and healthcare access.

SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office): Federal department protecting historic places and regulating renovation projects.

Upzoning: Lobbying for zoning ordinance changes to allow increased density, facilitating multifamily housing development.

Workforce Housing: Affordable housing for moderate-income individuals and families who struggle with market-rate housing costs and housing in proximity to where they work.

Increasing understanding of industry-specific language fosters inclusivity and collaboration, essential for creating equitable and sustainable housing opportunities.

The role of organizations like NHPF underscores the collaborative nature of affordable housing development. Nonprofit entities dedicated to affordable housing play a vital role in bridging gaps in funding and expertise, facilitating community partnerships, and advocating for policy change. Understanding the mission and scope of such organizations enhances collaboration and amplifies impact across the affordable housing ecosystem.

In conclusion, mastering affordable housing terminology is essential for effective communication, strategic planning, and equitable development. By embracing a culture of continuous learning and dialogue, stakeholders can navigate complexities, foster inclusivity, and drive meaningful change in affordable housing provision. As we navigate the challenges of 2024 and beyond, a shared understanding of industry-specific language will be instrumental in building resilient and thriving communities for all.

Jason Soifer, AIA, NCARB, is project executive for The NHP Foundation.

You May Also Like