HART Housing Glossary

A handy tool to define and understand housing terms and policies.

Accessibility refers to the manner in which housing is designed, constructed or modified (such as through repair/ renovation/ renewal or modification of a home), to enable independent living for persons with diverse abilities.

Accessibility is achieved through design, but also by adding features that make a home more accessible, such as modified cabinetry, furniture, space, shelves and cupboards, or even electronic devices that improve the overall ability to function in a home.

Also known as ADUs, laneway houses, or “granny flats”, accessory dwelling units are any unit added onto a single family home where an additional person or family could live.

These can take the form of a basement, attic or garage that is converted into its own small unit; or a separate cottage built in the yard of a homeowner.

According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, there are seven elements to adequate housing: (1) security of tenure; (2) access to basic services; (3) affordability; (4) habitability; (5) accessibility; (6) location; (7) cultural adequacy.

While the definition of core housing need acknowledges two of these concerns (affordability and habitability), Statistics Canada and the CMHC have not yet created definitions or measurements for adequate housing in Canada.

Housing where all shelter costs (e.g. rent, utilities, property taxes) make up a maximum of 30% of before-tax household income.

Some think the term “affordable housing” refers only to rental housing that is subsidized by the government, but it’s a very broad term that can include housing provided by the private, public and non-profit sectors. It also includes all forms of housing tenure: rental, ownership and co-operative ownership, as well as temporary and permanent housing.

This is the median income of all households within a given area.

Statistics Canada calculates this as part of HART’s custom data order in order to categorize households into HART’s specified income categories, which are based on this AMHI for each area. AMHI is calculated for each area within each geographic level of data, which includes: Canada as a whole, provinces and territories, census divisions, and census subdivisions. Each of these areas has its own AMHI.

The software used by Statistics Canada to view and manipulate census data in the “.ivt” file format. HART’s eLearning course introduces the basics of this software to users.

An abandoned, idled, or underused property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived contamination.

Brownfield sites include abandoned factories and other industrial facilities, gasoline stations, oil storage facilities, dry cleaning stores, and other businesses that formerly dealt with polluting substances.

A term used to describe technical assistance (and sometimes staff grants) given to a government, sector, or specific organization, to increase their organizational and staff capacity, funding resources, and output.

A provincially legislated area like counties, regional districts or equivalent areas. Census divisions are intermediate geographic areas between the province/territory level and the municipality (census subdivision).

A married couple and the children (if any) of either and/or both spouses; a couple living common law and the children (if any) of either and/or both partners; or a parent of any marital status in a one-parent family with at least one child living in the same dwelling and that child or those children.

Members of a census family live in the same dwelling. Children may be biological or adopted children, regardless of their age or marital status as long as they live in the dwelling and do not have their own married spouse, common-law partner or child living in the dwelling. Grandchildren living with their grandparent(s) but with no parents present also constitute a census family.

A provincially-legislated area of at least 100,000 people within one or more adjacent municipalities centered on a population centre. Metro Vancouver or the Greater Toronto area are examples.

A provincially-legislated area at the municipal scale or areas treated as municipal equivalents for statistical purposes (e.g. reserves, settlements and unorganized territories). Municipal status is defined by laws in effect in each province and territory in Canada.

A geographic region defined for the purpose of taking a census. Sometimes these coincide with the limits of cities, towns or other administrative areas and several tracts commonly exist within a region.

A numerical identifier assigned to a geographic area to identify and access standard geographic areas for the purposes of data storage, retrieval and display. Census codes make it possible to distinguish cities, regions, or areas from any other geography with the same name.

Refers to individuals, often with disabling conditions (e.g. chronic physical or mental illness, substance abuse problems), who are currently homeless and have been homeless for six months or more in the past year (i.e. have spent more than 180 cumulative nights in a shelter or place not fit for human habitation).

Also known as social housing or non-profit housing, it typically refers to either housing that is owned and operated by non-profit housing societies and housing co-operatives, or housing owned by provincial, territorial or municipal governments.

A non-profit corporation that holds land on behalf of a place-based community, while serving as the long-term steward for affordable housing, community gardens, civic buildings, commercial spaces and other community assets on behalf of a community.

Also known as “possession”; homes that have completed construction, where the household/ housing provider has “received the keys” and people are living in the building. It is preferable to measure completed homes rather than approved homes since many approved projects take years to build.

A form of ownership in which individuals own a unit of housing in a multi-unit complex. The individual owners also jointly own and share financial responsibility for the common areas in the complex.

Accommodation that offers separate rooms or apartments but shared amenities, including kitchens, bathrooms, or other facilities. Includes some rooming houses, seniors homes, nursing homes, group homes, or assisted living facilities.

A type of residential housing option whereby the owners do not own their units outright; each resident is a shareholder in the corporation.

Co-op housing is often far less expensive than market rent, and there is shared responsibility and decision-making. While co-ops can have a variety of governance structures, most Canadian models use a rental-type format that requires residents to pay housing charges each month, and there is no equity purchase.

A household is in core housing need if its housing does not meet one or more of the adequacy, suitability or affordability standards and it would have to spend 30% or more of its before-tax income to pay the median shelter costs (including utility and municipal costs) of alternative local market housing (i.e. they are in unsuitable, inadequate, or unaffordable housing and they could not afford another home in the community).

  • Adequate – Does not require any major repairs, according to residents. Major repairs include those to defective plumbing or electrical wiring, or structural repairs to walls, floors or ceilings.
  • Suitable – Has enough bedrooms for the size and make-up of resident households, according to guidelines outlined in National Occupancy Standard (NOS).
  • Affordable – All shelter costs total less than 30% of a household’s before-tax income.

A measure of housing adequacy that takes into account the expression of cultural identity.

This is especially relevant to Indigenous communities across Canada, who may find that off-reserve housing isolates them from land, community, language, and cultural heritage.

A series of rules that Statistics Canada applies to data tables released to the public in order to further protect the confidentiality of individual respondents’ personal information.

Area and data suppression results in the deletion of all information for geographic areas with populations below a specified size. For example, areas with a population of less than 40 persons are suppressed. If the community searched has a population of less than 40 persons, only the total population counts will be available. Suppression of data can be due to poor data quality or to other technical reasons.

The publicly-accessible data repository of the HART open-source data that powers our Housing Needs Assessment Tool. It contains all the Census data that HART has ordered for 2006, 2016, and 2021.

Also known as Emergency Housing; facilities providing temporary, short-term accommodation for homeless individuals and families.

This may or may not include other services such as food, clothing or counselling. Shelters, hostels, and encampments are examples of emergency housing. There may also be smaller religious or community-based organizations that provide emergency housing. Emergency shelters are not considered to be adequate housing.

A legal process that enables a landlord to seek an order to end a lease agreement or occupancy agreement with a tenant. Every province and territory has different rules around evictions, but in Canada there must be a valid reason for the eviction, a right to a fair hearing, and sufficient notice of the proposed action.

Undeveloped land. Smart growth principles dictate that new development be steered away from greenfields to the maximum extent possible and toward sites where infrastructure and public transportation already exist, or to contaminated and/or underutilized sites that can be reclaimed to accommodate new development.

All income received before taxes and other deductions or credits.

A situation of an individual or family that is unsheltered, but not living on the street or in shelter. This may look like living in a car, with friends or family, or in a dangerous situation because of a lack of options. It is referred to as ‘hidden’ homelessness because it is near impossible to measure or count this population, and they are frequently not included in official homelessness counts.

The situation of an individual or family that does not have a permanent address or residence; the living situation of an individual or family who does not have stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. It is often the result of what are known as systemic or societal barriers, including a lack of affordable and appropriate housing, the individual/household’s financial, mental, cognitive, behavioural or physical challenges, and/or racism and discrimination.

A person or group of persons who occupy the same dwelling. The dwelling may be either a collective dwelling or a private dwelling. The household may consist of a family group such as a census family, of two or more families sharing a dwelling, of a group of unrelated persons or of a person living alone.

The wide range of housing options available in our communities, from temporary options such as emergency shelters for people who are homeless, to more permanent housing such as rental and homeownership. The term isn’t intended to imply progression towards homeownership – it simply represents the full range of options that match people’s needs and preferences with appropriate forms of housing and supports (if needed).

A recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness that centers on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing and then providing additional supports and services as needed.

Housing needs assessments are a way for communities to better understand their current and future housing needs. These reports can help identify existing and projected gaps in housing supply by collecting and analyzing quantitative and qualitative information about local demographics, economics, housing stock, and other factors.

A local zoning ordinance that either requires or encourages a developer to include affordable or non-profit housing as part of a development, or contribute to a fund for such housing.

The bylaw may provide incentives such as increased density, reduced parking requirements, or expedited permitting in exchange for the affordability.

The practice of building on vacant or undeveloped parcels in dense areas, especially urban and inner suburban neighborhoods; promotes compact development.

A process in which specific areas of land are evaluated for value and/or suitability for development.

Also known as a land plot or tract; the smallest measure of a piece of land as defined through subdivision of all of the land.

Typically land that is underused, meaning it is only partially occupied, occupied by low-level buildings which could be further developed, or occupied by low-value amenities, like parking lots.

Also known as prefabricated, mobile, or modular homes; a home that is built off-site, as opposed to on-site. These homes are often called factory-built or system-built and transported to the site once complete.

Also known as for-profit housing; housing that is privately owned by an individual (or a company) who generally does not receive direct subsidies to purchase or maintain it. Prices are set by the private market.

About 95% of households in Canada live in market housing, either rental market housing or home ownership.

Housing that accommodates more people than a single family home but does not come in the form of a large apartment building. Typically it means anything from a duplex to a small apartment building but, significantly, it is housing that would blend in in a residential neighborhood dominated by single-family homes. It’s called “missing” middle because many communities do not have very much of this sort of mid-range housing.

Any type of housing development (rent or owned) that includes a range of income levels (and shelter costs) among its residents, including low, moderate and/or higher incomes.

The development of land or in a building with two or more different uses, such as residential, office and retail. Mixed‐use can occur vertically within a building, or horizontally on a site.

A multi-family household refers to a household in which two or more census families live.

An example of this could be two single mothers sharing a home with their respective children, or a married couple living with one partner’s parents.

A standard set by the CMHC which provides a national reference for “suitable” housing by defining how many people a given dwelling unit could accommodate. 

This standard is applied in national housing policies and is part of how core housing need (suitability) is defined. Details on these definitions can be found here.

Unsubsidized housing that is affordable to low or moderate income households, often as a result of the age or quality of the building. This housing is most at-risk of losing affordability due to speculation or development.

Housing that is owned and operated by community-based, non-profit societies or local governments and regional districts.

Their mandate is to provide safe, secure, affordable accommodation to households with low to moderate incomes. Most non-profit housing societies receive some form of financial assistance from government to enable them to offer affordable rents.

A census term meaning the person in a household identified as someone who pays the rent or the mortgage, or the taxes, or the electricity bill, and so on, for the dwelling. In the case of a household where two or more people are listed as household maintainers, the first person listed is chosen as the primary household maintainer. Generally, an adult is listed first followed, if applicable, by that person’s spouse or common-law partner and by their children. The order does not necessarily correspond to the proportion of household payments made by the person.

Also known as marginalized communities or vulnerable groups; persons belonging, or perceived to belong, to groups that are in a disadvantaged position or marginalized are often referred to as vulnerable groups or equity-deserving groups.

In the case of the National Housing Strategy, priority groups are currently defined to include households led by women and gender-diverse people; single parent households; survivors (especially women and their children fleeing domestic violence); seniors; Indigenous peoples; people with disabilities; people dealing with mental health and addiction issues; veterans; 2SLGBTQIA+; racialized groups; recent immigrants (including refugees); and people experiencing homelessness. We recognize that people often live with multiple experiences of marginalization and thus an intersectional lens should be applied in discussion of each of these vulnerable groups.

A strategy by which land or existing buildings/apartments are purchased from the market by a government or non-market entity with the interest in expanding the stock of affordable housing and preserving existing affordability in a given community.

A type of community or social housing that is owned by provincial, territorial or municipal governments..

Also known as the primary rental market or secure rentals; multi-unit buildings (three or more units) which are built specifically for the purpose of providing long-term rental accommodations.

PBR is a key source of both affordable and secure rental housing in any community.

A government or non-profit program that provides loans to renters who have regular income but are facing eviction as a result of a short-term financial crisis like illness, job loss, relationship breakdown or eviction.

The loans are low- or no-cost and have generous repayment terms – usually up to two years,

A form of government regulation that controls or otherwise limits the rent that a landlord may charge. Limits are often connected to rates of inflation.

Government payments that help low-income individuals and families to meet monthly rent payments in the private rental market.

A legal power or provision in an agreement that requires the owner of a property to give another party the first opportunity to purchase or lease the property before he or she offers it for sale or lease to others.

All rental-occupied housing units that do not fall under the purpose-built rental umbrella. It includes rented condominiums, subsidized rental units, rented freehold row houses and rental units in structures with fewer than three units.

A more encompassing measure of accommodation expenses including direct homeownership and/or rental fees, as well utilities and municipal services. Statistics Canada uses this measure, compared against pre-tax income, as one of the benchmarks to determine whether a household is in Core Housing Need.

All or part of a dwelling unit rented out for less than 28 consecutive days in exchange for payment. This includes bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) but excludes hotels and motels. It also excludes other accommodations where there is no payment.

A single family home is a residential building on a parcel of private land that accommodates one household. There are different types of single family homes: fully detached, semi-detached or row house (townhouse).

While a fully detached house is freestanding, a semi-detached dwelling is connected to another unit through an adjoining wall. Meanwhile, a townhouse is part of a row of properties and is attached to bordering units on one or both sides. Although semi-detached and row houses are not standalone, they are fully separated — there is no internal access to adjacent properties and they have independent utilities, including heating, electricity and water.

Efficiency-oriented housing units which may or may not include separate bathroom or kitchen facilities.

A type of housing where units or lots are owned by multiple private households who collectively own the common property and common assets as a strata corporation.

Encompasses all types of housing for which a subsidy or rent assistance is provided (usually by government), including public, non-profit and co-operative housing, as well as rent assistance for people living in private market housing. It also includes emergency housing and short-term shelters.

Housing that provides ongoing assistance so residents can live independently: it can include services like case management, counselling, supervision/monitoring, assistance with medication, psychosocial rehabilitation, child care, meal services, personal care, housekeeping, and other forms of support that help people to live independently and remain stably housed.

Supportive housing can be permanent or transitional; it is generally provided to seniors, people with disabilities (including mental disabilities and addictions), and children under the age of 18 in the child welfare system or those who have recently aged out of the child welfare.

Households who move out of an area, or do not move there in the first place, because of lack of adequate options.

New households that would have been formed but are not due to a lack of attainable options. The persons who would have formed these households include, but are not limited to, many adults living with family members or roommates and individuals wishing to leave unsafe or unstable environments but cannot due to a lack of places to go.

A person or household who occupies land or property rented from a landlord.

An arrangement and ownership structure under which someone has the right to live in a house or apartment. The most frequent forms of tenure are tenancy, in which rent is paid by the occupant to a landlord, and owner-occupancy, where the occupant owns the home they live in.

Housing provided for a minimum of 30 days that can last up to two or three years. It includes the provision of on- or off-site support services to help residents move towards independence and self-sufficiency.

Any effort to strategically create dense urban living around a transit stop, increasing transit ridership. It often appears in the form of large mixed-used apartment buildings and condos near rail stations in urban areas.

A type of rent control that controls or otherwise limits the rent increases between tenancies. The alternative is vacancy decontrol, where the landlord may raise rents by any amount they choose on newly vacated units.

The classification of land by a) types of uses permitted and prohibited and b) by densities and intensities permitted and prohibited in a given district, including regulations regarding building location on lots.

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