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Common Words

Housing can be complex, and so can its vocabulary.

From ADUs and missing middle to housing choice voucher and LIHTC, we’ve got a robust list of words and acronyms that are commonly used to describe housing needs and housing solutions – and what they mean. Not seeing what you’re looking for? Email us at

  • What is Housing Next?
    Housing Next is a pilot program of the Greater Ottawa County United Way that is funded through community foundations in Ottawa County.
  • What does Housing Next do?
    Housing Next partners with local governments, developers and nonprofits in West Michigan to remove barriers to the creation of housing at all price points. It also works to identify, promote and foster quality housing for all – regardless of income, socioeconomic background or race. Housing Next is committed to working with community partners to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in housing.
  • What is housing affordability?
    Housing is affordable when it costs 30% or less of a household’s gross income. This includes mortgage, rent, taxes, insurance, etc. Monthly maximum housing cost for an individual earning $18,000 needs to be $450. For an individual earning $30,000, it’s $625. For a family who earns $54,000, it’s $1,350. For a family who earns $90,000, it’s $2,250.
  • What is housing choice?
    Housing choice is the amount of available housing and the different kinds of housing that can be found to satisfy a variety of household needs and desires in any community.
  • What is missing middle housing?
    Missing middle housing is diverse, fits seamlessly into existing residential neighborhoods and supports walkability. This type of housing includes duplexes, fourplexes, cottage courts and multiplexes. Most times, it has four to eight units in a building or, in the case of cottage courts, has four to eight units on a lot. Most missing middle building types are two stories in height. It’s called “missing” because it has not been allowed in many communities since the mid-1940s and “middle” because it sits in the middle of the housing-type spectrum between detached single-family homes and mid-rise to high-rise apartment buildings. Missing middle housing provides more housing choices. When we have more choices, we create thriving and sustainable neighborhoods for people and businesses.
  • Why does it matter?
    Housing affordability matters to everyone. To prosper, all people and all places need housing for all income levels. High-quality, stable housing at all price points is central to the health and wellbeing of all of us. Communities that have enough housing at all price points offer greater economic stability, better health and greater access to quality education for all residents. If we don’t support housing supply at all price points, tremendous strain will be placed on the social support systems that we all depend on and each of us will be impacted. Health care, education, public safety and regional economic competitiveness are all affected by the ability of community members to find housing within their price range. When there isn’t enough housing at all price points, some of us are forced to live on the streets, with friends or loved ones or in hotels or shelters while others of us face losing our home soon because we no longer can afford it or we are one crisis away from losing our home. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand – an adequate supply makes housing more affordable at any price point. In other words, we all win.
  • What are the barriers?
    West Michigan does not have enough housing for two primary reasons: We have not built enough supply to keep up with demand at all price points over the past 30 years and regional wage growth has not kept pace with the rise in housing prices. Our housing and economic policies have caused housing costs to rise while wage growth and income levels stay stagnant. Our longtime focus on single-family housing has limited our ability to meet the needs of our growing communities and meet the desire of residents of all ages to live within walking distance of restaurants, shops and public transportation. The way we have zoned land for housing has hindered natural growth in communities across our region. As long as demand for housing continues to outstrip the available supply, housing prices will continue to rise and we won’t be able to provide a high quality of life for all. Barriers to housing stability are rooted in deeper systems, including wages, education, mental and physical health care, systemic racism, mobility choice and safe and clean environment. Housing insecurity disproportionately impacts people of color, people who are older and those living on low incomes. Black applicants are more likely to receive subprime loans than whites – even if they have the same financial background. These loans have higher interest rates and bigger payments – both of which make it more difficult for borrowers to pay down their debt and build up their savings. These factors make loan default and foreclosures more likely. When communities have a lot of foreclosed homes, property values fall – reducing residents’ wealth and making it more difficult for them to sell their homes or move.
  • How does Housing Next work to remove barriers?
    Housing Next collaborates with local governments, developers and nonprofits to create public policy that supports housing affordability. Specifically, it works with developers to find available land, create preliminary development plans that align with the community’s master plan and seek funding opportunities to support the creation of mixed-income neighborhoods with a variety of price points. Housing Next partners with local governments on ways to make these projects more financially feasible. This may include obtaining state or federal funding, offering a short-term tax incentive for affordable units or reducing utility connection fees or other costs associated with construction and management of a residential building. It works with nonprofits and housing advocates to seek out long-term funding mechanisms and organizational structures to support the creation and effective management of more housing in the future.
  • Does Housing Next use a one-size-fits-all approach?
    No. Housing Next works closely with communities to review their master plans, evaluate local zoning standards and find opportunities to allow for more housing that aligns with the community’s vision for its future.
  • Where do residents fit in this work?
    We strongly believe residents should be closely involved in deciding how their neighborhoods grow. No neighborhood should be overwhelmed by drastic change, but all neighborhoods are capable of modest change.
  • What’s the housing stability spectrum?
    Housing Next, in partnership with KConnect and the Kent County Housing Alliance, uses the housing stability spectrum to define the housing situations experienced by community members. The housing situations – all interrelated – are: No housing: Our neighbors who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. Temporarily housed: Our neighbors who are forced into double occupancy or living in motels/hotels, campsites or other shelters. Soon-to-lose housing: Our neighbors who will lose their housing in the next 14 days. At-risk of losing housing: Our neighbors who have identified risks such as late bills, rent or the illness of a loved one and are at risk of losing housing in the next six months. Insecurely housed: Our neighbors whose housing costs exceed 30% of their household income and/or are one crisis from not being able to pay for housing. Stably housed: Our neighbors whose housing costs do not exceed 30% of household income and are not living paycheck to paycheck but would move if they could. Housed by choice: Our neighbors who have affordable, safe and long-term housing of their choosing.
  • What are the three Ss of housing?
    The three Ss of housing are stability, supply and subsidies. Housing stability – We need to make sure those who have housing can afford to remain in their neighborhoods and local communities make investments to ensure access to jobs, health care, quality education, healthy foods and mobility choices. Housing supply – Put simply: We need enough housing at all price points to support the population. Housing subsidies – We need to invest directly into safe, quality housing that allows all community members to flourish.
  • What can I do to support the efforts of Housing Next and its partners?
    You have the power to change outcomes. Engage with your local officials about the need for more housing. Participate in community conversations about allowing for moderate changes to local zoning, improving public transportation options, prioritizing a mix of housing types and price points in every neighborhood and a focus on supporting well-paid middle-class job opportunities. Contribute your time, talent or treasure to one of the many local organizations working to build, preserve and support housing availability across West Michigan. View our community partners here.
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