29 Housing-Related Terms to Know

Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023

United Way of the Columbia Willamette believes that housing is not a luxury, it is a basic human right, and that everyone deserves to have a safe and affordable place to call home. The information below is being provided with the intent to help inform, educate and empower our readers to take action in support of moving this vision closer to becoming a reality for everyone in our region. Look through these terms to gain a better understanding of this work and learn how to effectively communicate about and advocate for housing justice.

"The face of homelessness has completely changed in the past few decades. People experiencing homelessness are mothers, fathers, children. They look like you and I."
Linda King, Director of Housing, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette

1. Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU): A smaller, self-contained housing unit that is attached to or located on the same property as a single-family home. 

2. Affordable Housing: Housing that is priced lower than the market rate intended not to exceed more than 30% of the household income. Affordability is usually attained with the assistance of government or other subsidies. 

3. Built for Zero (BfZ) - An initiative of more than 100 cities and counties committed to ending homelessness for entire populations using data to achieve a milestone known as Functional Zero. Multnomah County joined this initiative in November 2021, with a focus on the chronically homeless population.

4. Chronic homelessness - People who are chronically homeless have experienced homelessness for at least a year – or repeatedly – while also struggling with a disabling condition such as a serious mental illness, physical disability or substance abuse disorder.

5. Coordinated Access System: A centralized system for people who are or have been homeless to access homeless services and assistance, intended to streamline the process of being rehoused.

6. Displacement: The systematic removal of individuals or communities from their homes or neighborhoods, often as a result of gentrification, redevelopment, or other economic and political factors.  

7. Eviction: The legal process of displacing a tenant “for cause” such as non-payment of rent, and lease violations or “no cause” to reclaim property for personal occupation or sale.  

8. Fair Housing: The right for all individuals to gain equal access to housing opportunities that are free from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability.

9. Gentrification: The process of “revitalizing” or “improving” historically occupied communities of color which result in their displacement due to increased taxes, exorbitant rent hikes, and lack of affordable housing.  

10. Homelessness/Houselessness: People living in a place not meant for human habitation such as a car, abandoned building or in a tent on the street.  

11. Housing First: An approach to addressing homelessness that prioritizes providing individuals and families with permanent housing as the first step toward ending homelessness, rather than requiring them to first participate in treatment or other services. 

12. Housing Justice: A movement that seeks to address systemic racism, and inequalities in housing access and affordability, including displacement, discrimination, and gentrification. 

13. Housing Voucher: A subsidy provided to eligible low-income families, allowing them to rent private market housing at market rates that are subsidized requiring them to pay 30% of their income toward the rent.

14. Move-In Multnomah - A program launched by Multnomah County in April 2022 to offer added incentives to landlords willing to rent to people coming out of homelessness.

15. Person-Centered Approach -  The person is placed at the center of the service and treated as a person first.  Focuses on the person and not their condition or disability.

16. Permanent Supportive Housing: Long-term, affordable housing with supportive services for people who have experienced chronic homelessness and have disabilities. 

17. Project-Based Rental Assistance: A type of rent assistance provided for specific units or projects. 

18. Public Housing: Affordable rental housing owned and operated by local or federal government agencies, usually reserved for low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities.

19. Rent Burden: Rent burden occurs when too much of a household income is spent on rent, usually more than 30%. Currently many households are experiencing rent burden as 50% of all renters are paying nearly 50% of their income towards rent.  

20. Rapid Re-Housing: An intervention intended to quickly transition individuals or families with low to moderate barriers, experiencing homelessness to stable housing, while also providing short-term rental assistance and supportive services. 

21. Redlining: The practice of denying or limiting financial services, including mortgages and insurance, to residents of certain neighborhoods based on race or ethnicity, leading to disinvestment and decline in those communities.   

22. Regional Long-Term Rent Assistance (RLRA) - A program that provides a regional framework for the administration of rent assistance to ensure consistency for landlords, service providers and participants, while also allowing counties to independently implement the program based on local priorities.

23. Rent Control: A government-imposed regulation that controls the amount, and how frequently rent can be increased for rental units, intended to protect tenants from rapid rent increases and promoting affordability. Currently, Oregon’s rental control allows landlords to increase rent at a rate of 14.6% annually.

24. Rent Strike: A collective action taken by tenants who refuse to pay rent as a protest against landlords' failure to provide safe and habitable housing, or to address other issues related to housing rights.

25. Scattered Site Rental Assistance: A subsidy provided to assist individuals and families with the rental of a unit of their choice, usually provided for a period of time typically (1 – 12 months) 

26. Section 8: A federal housing assistance program that provides rental subsidies to eligible low-income families, so they can afford to rent homes in the private market. 

27. Shelter: A temporary dwelling option for individuals or families experiencing homelessness with limited services such as food, clothing, and access to case management to help identify permanent housing opportunities.

28. Subsidized Housing: Housing that is subsidized by government, local housing authorities, and nonprofit organizations, with the goal of making housing affordable for low-income families, elderly individuals, and people with disabilities.

29. Trauma-Informed Care - An approach, based on the knowledge of the impact of trauma, intended to ensure that environments and services are welcoming and engaging for service recipients and staff.

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