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Housing Definitions

The RDN acknowledges that definitions for different housing terms may vary from one agency/organization to another. Unless otherwise noted, the definitions below are from the BC Housing Glossary and other BC Housing reference material. These definitions are provided to enable a general understanding of the terms used in this website.

Adequate Housing
Housing is considered to be adequate when it is safe and reported by their residents as not requiring any major repairs.
Affordable Housing
Housing is considered to be "affordable" when it costs less than 30% of before-tax household income. Housing is not affordable when it costs so much that individuals and families have trouble paying for other necessities such as food, health and transportation.

For renters, shelter costs include rent and any payments for electricity, fuel, water and other municipal services. For owners, shelter costs include mortgage payments (principal and interest), property taxes, and any condominium fees, along with payments for electricity, fuel, water and other municipal services (Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation).

Appropriate Housing
Housing is considered to be appropriate or suitable when it has enough bedrooms for the size and make-up of resident households, according to National Occupancy Standard (NOS) requirements. This includes being designed to accommodate any special needs the residents may have based on physical or mental abilities.
Assisted Living
Assisted living units are self-contained apartments for seniors or people with disabilities who need some support services to continue living independently, but do not need 24-hour facility care. Services provided include daily meals, social and recreational opportunities, assistance with medications, mobility and other care needs, a 24-hour response system and light housekeeping.
Cold Wet Weather
Cold wet weather services include shelter facilities and services that operate and/or are funded on a seasonal basis. Shelters add cold wet weather beds (seasonal beds and mats) to provide the option of a warm, dry place to sleep for people who are homeless as winter weather sets in and the need increases. There are also emergency shelter facilities that are open only during winter months.
Co-operative housing
A housing development in which individual residents own a share in the co-operative. This share grants them equal access to common areas, voting rights, occupancy of an apartment or townhouse as if they were owners, and the right to vote for board members to manage the co-operative. Each member has one vote and members work together to keep their housing well-managed and affordable.
Core Housing Need
A household is said to be in core housing need if its housing falls below at least one of the adequacy, affordability or suitability, standards and it would have to spend 30% or more of its total before-tax income to pay the median rent of alternative local housing that is acceptable (meets all three housing standards.)
  • Adequate housing are reported by their residents as not requiring any major repairs.
  • Affordable dwellings costs less than 30% of total before-tax household income.
  • Suitable housing has enough bedrooms for the size and make-up of resident households, according to National Occupancy Standard (NOS) requirements.
A household is not in core housing need if its housing meets all of the adequacy, suitability and affordability standards OR, If its housing does not meet one or more of these standards, but it has sufficient income to obtain alternative local housing that is acceptable (meets all three standards).

NOTE: Regardless of their circumstances, non-family households led by maintainers 15 to 29 years of age attending school full-time are considered to be in a transitional stage of life and therefore not in core housing need.

Core Need Income Threshold (CNIT)
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation produces annual Core Need Income Threshold tables (CNITs) for each community. CNITs set maximum income levels for different sized units in different areas of the province. These incomes represent the most people can earn and remain eligible for a rent subsidy. Below these income levels, it's difficult for people to find uncrowded housing in good repair, without spending more than 30 per cent of their income for rent.
Emergency Housing
Short-stay housing of 30 days or less. Includes emergency shelters that provide single or shared bedrooms or dorm-type sleeping arrangements, with varying levels of support to individuals.
Emergency Shelter
Short-stay housing of 30 days or less for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Emergency shelters provide single or shared bedrooms or dorm-type sleeping arrangements, with varying levels of support to individuals. Shelters usually provide food and a variety of other support services. Compared to Temporary Extreme Weather Shelters, Emergency Shelters operate all year round with the majority running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Extreme Weather Shelter
Temporary spaces for people who are homeless made available during weather conditions where sleeping outside might threaten health and safety. Activated by local community from November 1 through March 31 (subject to change)
Group Home
A small, community-based development, usually under 10 beds/units, that provides affordable housing with supports to those with special needs including individuals with severe mental and physical disabilities, youth, and women with their children fleeing abuse. BC Housing provides administration and property management support for group homes on behalf of other provincial ministries and health authorities.
Housing Provider
DESCRIPTION Non-profit housing societies and housing co-operatives, which own and manage affordable housing developments. This term can also include private market landlords, through which BC Housing provides rent supplements to low-income households.
Provincial Rental Assistance Programs (PRAP)
PRAP for seniors was introduced in 1979 to provide subsidized housing for senior citizens, 55 or older. This program also provides housing for adults with disabilities, PRAP for the Disabled began in 1983 to support people with physical, mental or psychiatric disabilities living in group homes. For both PRAP programs, residents pay 30 per cent of their income for rent, up to a maximum, which is the market rent.
Public Housing
This housing is jointly funded by the provincial and federal governments and predominantly managed by BC Housing. Most of these developments were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s.
Rental Assistance
Rent supplement agreements with private landlords as well as housing allowances paid directly to households in the private market.
Social Housing
This housing includes both public housing and housing owned and managed by non-profit and co-operative housing providers.
Subsidized Housing
This type of housing encompasses all types of housing in which the provincial government provides some type of subsidy or rental assistance, including public, non-profit and co-operative housing, as well as rent supplements for people living in private market housing. It also includes emergency housing and short-term shelters.
Supportive Housing
There is no limit on the length of stay. Provides ongoing supports and services to residents who cannot live independently and who are not expected to become fully self-sufficient. This form of housing may be located in a purpose-designed building or scattered site apartments.
Transitional Housing
Housing from 30 days to two or three years that includes the provision of support services, on- or off-site, to help people move towards independence and self-sufficiency. Transitional housing is often called second-stage housing, and includes housing for women fleeing abuse.
Last Modified:  Oct 9, 2012
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