Glossary of Housing Terms & Acronyms

This glossary will help to explain the jargon or terms that are commonly used in Community Housing.



Access Site: At an Access Site, applicants can pick up a copy of a Community Housing application form, other housing forms or get help to fill out the forms.

Affordable Housing: Housing offered at a lower cost to individuals and families with low- to moderate-income households. Affordable Housing is located throughout Waterloo Region.          

Alternative Housing: Community Housing with low to moderate levels of supports available.

Annual Information Return (AIR): A report outlining the financial information of a prescribed housing provider.  Housing providers must submit an AIR report to the Region of Waterloo every year.

Average Market Rent (AMR): A number, or amount of rent that is determined by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The number is calculated based on a geographic area.



Bed Bug Umbrella Group (B.BUG): In April 2011, one-time funding was provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care through the Bed Bug Support Fund to develop and implement educational and supportive initiatives across all health units in Ontario, including in Waterloo Region. Public Health organized an advisory committee, named the Bed Bug Umbrella Group (B.BUG), to coordinate planning and implementation of local initiatives.

Below Average Market Rent (BAMR): A Community Housing unit with a fixed rent that is lower than the Average Market Rent for Waterloo Region. BAMR units are available to eligible applicants only.



Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC): A national housing agency appointed by the federal government of Canada. CMHC is responsible for distributing all federal funding programs for housing, as well as carrying out the current responsibilities of the federal government with regard to affordable housing. 

Capital reserves: Housing providers are required to set aside a pre-determined percentage of their revenue/income into an individual capital reserve fund; this money is used for capital repair and replacement costs of their housing property. Prescribed housing providers are also required to invest funds into a group capital reserve fund with the Housing Services Corporation.

Central Ontario Co-Op Federation (COCHF): A federation of non-profit housing co-operatives in the cities of Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge, Brantford and Guelph incorporated in 1992 under the Co-operative Corporations Act (Ontario). COCHF was founded by housing co-operatives in the area to provide services to housing co-ops, to represent housing co-ops to the public and to governments, and provide a means for co-ops to network with each other.

Centralized Waiting List: A common waiting list maintained by the service manager. All applicants for Community Housing are placed on the centralized waiting list; housing providers select eligible tenants/members from the waiting list. An applicant's position on the waiting list is determined by their status and the date on their application form.

Charge back: A fee that the government allows a landlord to charge a tenant/member.

Community Housing: A range of affordable housing and housing programs that is overseen or funded by the Region of Waterloo.

Community Housing Access Centre (CHAC): CHAC is part of the Region of Waterloo - Housing Division and maintains the Region's centralized waiting list. All applications for Community Housing and all offers for Community Housing are managed by CHAC.

Community Housing Provider: A landlord that offers at least one affordable rental housing unit in their building, with the help of various government funding programs.

Co-operative Housing (Co-ops): A form of Community Housing. Residents who live in co-ops are considered "members" of the corporation that owns the building they live in. Members have an obligation to participate in running and maintaining the co-op community. Members elect a board of directors amongst themselves who are responsible for overseeing the management of the co-op.  Members must follow the Co-operative Corporations Act, not the Residential Tenancies Act.

Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada (CHF): This organization represents non-profit co-operative housing in the region, and advocates on behalf of its members. 

Coordinated Access: The system used by CHAC to manage the Centralized Waiting List. *Also called Region of Waterloo Coordinated Access System (ROWCAS).



Devolution: The transfer of administrative and financial responsibilities of prescribed housing providers from one governance to another, e.g. from the Ontario government to local service managers.





Federal Providers: *formerly known as Federal Unilateral Projects. A non-profit housing provider that:

  • Has their own, individualized operating agreement with the government;
  • Receives funding differently than other providers because of their operating agreement;
  • Does not follow the Housing Services Act (HSA).

*Exception: Federal providers with rent supplement units in their building, have to follow the HSA. Only the rent supplement units have to be governed by the HSA; all other units follow the operating agreement. 

Financial Testing: Monitoring the finances of housing providers. The service manager is responsible for monitoring housing providers' finances through regular operational and budget reviews; this also ensures rent calculations are done correctly.





Head Leases: A private landlord leases a few units in his/her building to a non-profit housing provider or support agency. The non-profit housing provider or support agency will then sublet or rent out the units to applicants from its own waiting list; they may also provide support to the head lease tenants.

Household Income Limits (HILS): A fixed number that ensures tenants/members are under a certain income level (if renting an RGI unit) and only spend 30% of their income on rent. The HILS number helps to guarantee that rent is actually affordable.

Housing Allowance: A fixed partial rent payment made by the Region of Waterloo, on behalf of a tenant/member. The rent payment is made directly to the landlord, making rent more affordable for the tenant/member. This program is available to private landlords, non-profit and co-op housing providers for their market rent units.

Housing Incentive: Funding offered to property developers, non-profits, co-ops and private landlords, to create more affordable rental housing in the community.

Housing Programs: Programs offered by the Region of Waterloo to help low- to moderate-income individuals and families pay their monthly rent.

Housing Services Act, 2011 (HSA): Effective Jan. 1 2012, the legislation that governs housing throughout the Province entitled the Social Housing Reform Act, 2000 was replaced by the Housing Services Act.

Housing Services Corporation (HSC):  A housing agency that was appointed by the Ontario government to deliver solutions to Ontario service managers and housing providers, such as insurance programs for housing providers, performance indicators and key services. HSC was formally known as the Social Housing Services Corporation (SHSC).



Institute of Housing Management (IHM): A professional association and incorporated educational body that has been dedicated to promoting and enhancing skills and knowledge of individuals in the private property management industry for over 30 years.

Internal Review: An appeal process to review a decision made by a housing provider, including:

  • Refusing to offer a unit;
  • Changing rent;
  • Changing the eligibility for a particular size or type of unit or for rent subsidy.

Internal Transfer: The transfer of a tenant/member from one unit to another within the same building, or to another building owned by the same housing provider.







Landlord: An owner of rental housing that must follow the RTA.

Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs): A local health agency appointed by the Ontario government to oversee health care planning and funding in a specific region.

Local Housing Corporation (LHC): A housing agency that was appointed by the Ontario government to manage social housing owned by the province of Ontario. The Region of Waterloo now owns these units and is managed by Waterloo Region Housing. 

Local Priority rules: Rules set by the service manager to address particular housing issues in the region.



Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS): A department in the Ontario government that is responsible for making it easier for families to access services for kids that will help with their development and help youth to become productive adults.

Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS): A department in the Ontario government that is responsible for funding and overseeing community services for the homeless, and non-profit housing for people with developmental disabilities.

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOH/LTC): A department in the Ontario government that is responsible for funding and managing housing support services in order to live independently, for people with mental illness, brain injuries, substance abuse problems and seniors.

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH): A department in the Ontario government that designed and implemented legislation for affordable housing in Ontario, currently known as the Housing Services Act. MMAH also designed and implemented legislation that explains the responsibilities of landlords and tenants, known as the Residential Tenancies Act. MMAH is responsible for ensuring these Acts are managed appropriately.

Modified unit: A specially built housing unit that enables tenants/members with a disability to perform daily in-house activities as independently as possible.

Municipal Flexibility: The Housing Services Act allows the service manager to make some local policies, such as asset limits, income limits, absences from units, and occupancy standards.

Municipal Non Profit Housing Corporation (MNP): A non-profit housing corporation that is owned and operated by a municipality. The board of directors may consist of no municipal appointees, or only municipal councillors.

Municipal Non-Profit Housing Program (Sec. 95): Under this program, affecting only municipal non-profit housing projects developed between 1979 and 1985, operating subsidy is provided by CMHC, and additional RGI subsidy by the Province.  MMAH had administrative responsibility for the program.  Under the Housing Services Act, the service manager is responsible for the Provincial share of the subsidy and the administration of the program according to the current operating agreement (unless both the provider and the Service Manager agree to changes).



Non-Profit Housing: Affordable rental housing provided by non-profit corporations and overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors.



Ontario Community Housing Assistance Program (OCHAP): A rent supplement program that is managed by the service manager and  tied to the Section 95 program. 

Ontario Municipal Social Services Association (OMSSA): A non-profit sector organization representing municipal employees working in social services and housing that promotes policy development and program delivery for children's services, affordable housing, homelessness prevention, and social assistance. 

Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA): A non-profit sector organization that represents non-profit housing providers in Ontario, and offers education and resource materials to non-profit housing providers. 

Ontario Renovates: Offers financial assistance to low to moderate income households to; repair their home to bring to acceptable standards while improving the energy-efficiency of the unit or increase accessibility of their home through modifications and adaptation. For more information about the Ontario Renovates Program, please visit this page.

Operating Agreement: A contract between a federal provider and the federal government that explains funding, operating, and other responsibilities.

Operating Subsidy: Paid to community housing providers and guaranteed for the life of the mortgage (usually 25 years) to bridge the gap between revenue from rents and the total cost of mortgage and operations.  

Operational Review: A review that analyzes the governance, financial, asset and operational management of a community housing provider. Operational reviews are conducted on a regular basis by the service manager.



Prescribed Housing Provider: A community housing provider that was owned and operated by the provincial government, but is now owned and operated by municipal governments.

Private Non-Profit Housing Corporation (PNP): A non-profit housing provider that is owned and operated by a non-profit, community-based organization such as a church, ethno-cultural group, service club, labour union, or other community group. 

Project in Difficulty (PID): A housing provider who has breached its operating agreement or has had a triggering event as defined by the Housing Services Act.  The breach or triggering event is frequently an accumulated deficit on the balance sheet, and can be an indication of mismanagement. Under the HSA, a service manager may place a PID in receivership, taking away all management responsibilities for the housing property.

Property Manager: A person or company that is appointed by a housing Provider to manage the housing property; responsibilities include collecting rent, managing tenant/member selection and building operations.

Provincial Standards: A set of rules in legislation, which establishes provincially mandated outcomes for the social housing system, including RGI subsidies, co-ordinated access and financial testing.

Public Housing: Affordable rental housing now known as Community Housing.

Pursuit of Income: The Housing Services Act requires RGI applicants to try to get basic income that they might be eligible for (e.g. Canada Pension Plan, Ontario Works, Child Support, Employment Insurance, and immigration sponsorship support.  Applicants that do not make a reasonable effort to get these income sources are ineligible for RGI subsidy).





Residential Energy Efficiency Program (REEP): An environmental, non-profit organization empowering our community towards healthier homes and sustainable living. REEP provides the services, tools and programs people need to use energy and water wisely.

Rent-Geared-to-Income (RGI): A formula used to calculate the total amount of rent a tenant/member will pay, based on his/her income (currently 30%).

Rent Subsidy: An amount of money that is given to a landlord to make up the difference between what a low-income tenant/member can pay for rent, and what the actual cost of monthly rent is for that unit.

Rent Supplements/Program Subsidies: An amount of money that is given to a landlord to make up the difference between a tenant/member's RGI rent, and what the actual cost of monthly rent is for that unit. 

Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP): A program that helps low-income households make repairs or improve the accessibility of their home. 

Residential Tenancies Act (RTA): The provincial legislation that governs the relationship between tenants and landlords in Ontario. The RTA outlines the roles and responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord.  



Service Agreement: An agreement between the service manager and housing provider about  funding and management of the housing units.

Service Area: A geographic area that the service manager is responsible for overseeing, e.g. the Region of Waterloo is responsible for overseeing all Community Housing in Waterloo Region.

Service Manager: A municipal government that is responsible for overseeing Community Housing in their service area (e.g. the Region of Waterloo's Housing Programs division acts as a service manager to all the Community Housing Providers in Waterloo Region).

Social Housing: Affordable rental housing now known as Community Housing.

Social Housing Agreement (SHA): An agreement between CMHC and the Province of Ontario that transfers the administrative responsibility of most federally-assisted housing to the provincial government. It also allowed the Province of Ontario to transfer the administration to municipal government.

Social Housing Reform Act, 2000 (SHRA):   The federal legislation that gave the Province of Ontario the power to transfer responsibility for social housing administration and funding to the municipal government in 2000. This legislation has now been replaced with the Housing Services Act, 2011.

Social Housing Renovation and Retrofit Program (SHRRP): A short-term federal/provincial program that provided Housing Providers with money to pay for repair and renovation of community housing units. SHRRP started in 2009 and ended in 2011.

Special Needs Unit: A specially built housing unit that enables tenants/members with a disability to perform daily in-house activities as independently as possible.

Special Priority: Community Housing applicants who are victims of domestic violence can apply for a special priority status. Applicants and tenants/members with a special priority status are placed higher on the centralized waiting list.

Support Services: Special services for tenants/members that need help to live independently in the community.

Supported Housing: Community Housing units that offer tenants/members support to live independently, e.g. seniors, people with mental health disabilities, addictions or developmental disabilities. Support staff is not on-site, but will travel to the tenant/member's unit to provide services. 

Supporting Community Partnerships Initiative (SCPI): Funding program under the National Homelessness Initiative which focused on homelessness shelter space, supportive or transitional housing. Replaced by the Homelessness Partnership Initiative (HPI).

Supportive Housing: Community Housing units that offer on-site support staff and/or services for tenants/members who need support to live independently, e.g. seniors, people with mental health disabilities, addictions or developmental disabilities.



Temporary Housing Assistance With Supports (THAWS): The Temporary Housing Assistance With Supports (THAWS) Program is a short-term rent assistance option for those in transition needing affordable housing with supports. This program applies a rent assistance component and works with agencies that provide the support component.

Target plan: The number of rent-geared-to-income (RGI) units in an affordable housing building, as set out in the service agreement between a community housing provider and the service manager.

Terminally Ill Priority: Community Housing applicants who have a life expectancy of two years or less can apply for terminally ill priority status. Applicants and tenants/members with a terminally ill priority status are placed higher on the centralized waiting list.

Transferred Provider: The transfer of administrative and financial responsibilities of prescribed housing providers with supportive housing from the Ontario government to MOH/LTC or MCSS.



Urgent Status: Community Housing applicants who have have issues with homelessness, separated families or safety can apply for urgent status. Applicants and tenants/members with an urgent status are placed higher on the centralized waiting list.





Waterloo Region Housing (WRH): A Housing Provider that is owned and operated by the Region of Waterloo.





Yardi: A database software program for property management and wait list information.