Q: What Do All These Housing Affordability Terms Mean?

What Do All These Housing Affordability Terms Mean?While we use terms like “affordable housing,” “moderate income,” “housing poverty,” and “area median income” often, we thought it’d be helpful to explain what all these housing affordability terms mean. Make sure you’re using these 19 terms correctly.

The Answer is a one-page response to questions many of our readers find themselves answering over and over, whether to colleagues, potential partners, funders, policymakers, or the public. We release a new one with each print issue and make it available online as a PDF.

Do you have a question you are asked over and over? Let us know at theanswer@shelterforce.org.

Shelterforce is the only independent, non-academic publication covering the worlds of community development, affordable housing, and neighborhood stabilization.


  1. My name is Angela Williams. I am the VISTA Organizer for Metropolitan Tenants Organization. I am having a meeting next Thursday, July 13, 2017. Can you send me about 100 copies of the Housing terms? You can email me a copy and I can print it out.

    Thank you,
    Angela Williams

    • Angela, You should be able to download the pdf from this page to print it out–if you click on the image you’ll get a printable pdf. Please let us know if that doesn’t work, however, and we’ll see what we can do! I’m glad you find it useful.

  2. Isn’t HUD’s definition of a family one (not two) or more individuals in a household? (Looking at Definition of Family in HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program Guidebook.)

  3. For the H*T Index, is the opportunity cost of commuting time included in the Transportation costs? (for example, if it takes you 2 hours to commute per day — that is time you could be getting paid work, if you did not have the commute).

    • Good question, Ann. I don’t recall seeing that factored in. (I personally would kind of hope that one would use that time for something other than paying work, unless one is notably underemployed, since Americans are notoriously overworked. But the lost time is a cost nevertheless.)


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