Common Terms in Housing

The following definitions clarify some of the terms that are commonly used when discussing housing disparities.


Opportunity Areas are communities with low poverty, high access to jobs and low concentrations of existing affordable rental housing. OAs are identified annually and retain the designation for at least four years as long as they continue to meet the identification criteria.


A sustainable community takes into account, and addresses, multiple human needs, not just one at the exclusion of all others. It is a place where people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives feel welcome and safe, where every group has a seat at the decision-making table, and where prosperity is shared.

It takes a long-term perspective – focusing on anticipating and adapting to change in both the present and future.

A sustainable community manages its human, natural, and financial capital to meet current needs while ensuring that adequate resources are available for future generations. Climate change, income inequality, and social injustice are the biggest threats to building strong, sustainable communities.

Inclusionary Neighborhoods

City Observatory defines inclusionary neighborhoods as: both diverse (having a mix of people from different racial and ethnic groups) and inclusive (composed of people from many different income groups). …we mean “diversity” in the strictest sense of the word: not as a synonym for “people of color” or any non-majority racial/ethnic group. A neighborhood that is composed entirely or predominantly of people from one racial or ethnic group is not “diverse,” whether the majority population is black, white or Latino. Similarly, we define a mixed income neighborhood as one with households from a variety of different income groups.


Inclusionary housing programs are local policies that tap the economic gains from rising real estate values to create affordable housing for lower income families. An inclusionary housingprogram might require developers to sell or rent 10 to 30 percent of new residential units to lower-income residents.

Inclusionary zoning requires or incentivizes private developers to designate a certain percentage of the units in a given project as below market rate (BMR)—cheaper than their value on the market, and often less than the price of producing them. (The large majority of IZ programs are mandatory—80 percent of them according to one study.) The proportion of BMR units a developer must build usually depends on the size of the project: In many cities, projects with fewer than ten units do not trigger IZ , while projects with hundreds of units might have steeper requirements, proportionally, than a project with 50.


The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines an “affordable dwelling” as one that a household can obtain for 30 percent or less of its income.

HUD sets the lower income limits at 80% and very low income limits at 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which you choose to live. Income limits vary from area to area so you may be eligible at one HA but not at another.

St Louis City: There are 34 low income housing apartment communities offering 2,107 affordable apartments for rent in St Louis, Missouri. St Louis features 93 low income apartments with rental assistance where households typically pay no more than 30% of their income towards rent. Additionally, there are 2,014 other low income apartments that don’t provide direct rental assistance but remain affordable to low income households in St Louis.

St Louis County: There are 72 low income housing apartment communities offering 5,056affordable apartments for rent in St Louis County, Missouri. St Louis County features 2,331 low income apartments with rental assistance where households typically pay no more than 30% of their income towards rent. Additionally, there are 2,725 other low income apartments that don’t provide direct rental assistance but remain affordable to low income households in St Louis County

Section 8: The government reimburses the landlord for a portion of a qualifying tenant’s rent. Government (public) housing: Options range from scattered single-family houses to high-rise apartments. There are approximately 1.2 million families and individuals living in public housing units, but their numbers are decreasing as they are replaced by the next option on this list.

Affordable housing built by private developers: With the incentive of government tax credits, a growing number of real estate investors are constructing low-income housing. If the builder of that new apartment complex in your neighborhood sets aside a certain number of apartments to be rented to low-income families at affordable housing rates, the builder gets a tax break from Uncle Sam.


1.Soft, weak, or distressed market A market where the supply of housing exceeds demand, leading to below average property values and below average rates of appreciation that in turn feed declining levels of property maintenance and investment.

2.Middle market A market where supply and demand for housing are in a general state of balance; this balance is characterized by moderate property values that keep pace with inflation, a high proportion of homes in average condition that show few signs of distress, and acceptable levels of investment in home maintenance.

3.Healthy or strong market A market where the demand for housing exceeds supply; this condition is characterized by property values that are above-average, a high proportion of homes that are well maintained through high levels of home reinvestment, and low incidences of property distress.

4.Revitalization An effort to stimulate housing demand and investment in a middle market that may be vulnerable to decline or in a strategically-located weak market. Revitalization tools and strategies include investments in infrastructure, support for homeownership and home improvements, and cultivation of resident leadership capacity.

5.Stabilization Outcome sought in a weak market where further decline needs to be stopped for revitalization to become feasible. Stabilization tools and strategies seek to improve quality of life while moving an oversupply of ill-maintained housing into closer balance with existing demand


The housing choice voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.

The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.

Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies(PHAs). The PHAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.

A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family’s choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family’s present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA.

A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. Under certain circumstances, if authorized by the PHA, a family may use its voucher to purchase a modest home.