Housing glossary

These terms are commonly used to discuss different types of housing and housing affordability options.

Affordable Housing

Please see this definition of affordable housing.

Assisted Living

Assisted living is housing that includes hospitality services (e.g. meals, housekeeping, social and recreational activities) and one or two personal assistance services, such as regular assistance with activities of daily living, medication services or psychosocial supports (referred to as prescribed services).
This housing is subject to registration by the Assisted Living Registrar and includes 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; or housing in which residents receive services related to mental health and substance use issues. 

BC Housing

BC Housing is a crown corporation that reports to the Attorney General and the Minister Responsible for Housing. It supports social housing, affordable housing, rent supplements, homeless outreach and emergency shelters and regulates residential construction. 

Emergency shelters

Short-stay housing of 30 days or less. Emergency shelters provide single or shared bedrooms or dorm-type sleeping arrangements with varying levels of support to individuals.


Homes that are owned by those who live in them (or who own a home they have rented to tenants). Housing can be of many types, including condos, townhouses, duplexes, detached dwellings, and more. Forms of ownership include:

  • Housing that is not part of a strata such as single-detached dwellings
  • Strata housing: any housing that is strata-titled. Strata housing can include condos, townhouses, even single family homes. Learn more about the different kinds of stratas.
  • Non-profit housing co-operatives (in which residents pay a nominal membership fee and jointly own the units and common areas as members of the housing co-operative).  Learn more at the Cooperative Housing Federation of B.C.
  • Equity co-operatives (in which residents pay a membership fee equal to the market value of their unit and jointly own the units and common areas as members of the housing co-operative)

Housing affordability

Housing affordability refers to all of the costs associated with housing considered within the context of a household’s overall budget, life circumstances and priorities.

Housing continuum / spectrum

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).

Housing First

'Housing First' is 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.

Market 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 the province live in market housing, either rental market housing or home ownership. 

Modular housing

A modular home is a home that is built off-site, as opposed to on-site. These homes are often called factory-built, system-built or prefab (short for prefabricated) homes. 

B.C.'s modular housing initiative, announced September 2017, will provide interim homes for people who are homeless or at-risk-of homelessness. Each building will include approximately 50 self-contained units, complete with individual kitchen and bathrooms, shared laundry, indoor and outdoor amenity spaces, plus programming space.

Non-profit housing

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

Public housing

Housing that 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.

Private market rental housing

Rental housing owned by a private individual or company that is rented to tenants who pay market rates. Rental housing can refer to any type of housing available on the market, including purpose built apartments, condos, duplexes, townhouses, single-detached dwellings, secondary suites, coach houses, laneway houses or granny flats, to name just some. 

Rental assistance in the private market

Rent subsidies (also known as rent assistance or rent supplements) help low-income individuals and families to meet monthly rent payments in the private rental market. BC Housing administers two programs: the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) for working low-income families with children and the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters Program (SAFER) for low income seniors.

Safe homes

Temporary housing for women and children fleeing violence when transition homes are not available in the community. This may include private homes, hotel units or rental apartments. Stays do not usually exceed five days.

Second-stage housing

Housing for women and children fleeing violence who have completed a stay in a transition house or safe home. Typically, stays last up to 18 months.

Social housing

Social housing is owned by a not-for-profit organization, a co-op or a government. Rents are subsidized (usually by the government) making it possible for people with lower incomes to find housing they can afford. Household income must be below certain limits in order to be eligible. 

Subsidized housing

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. 

Supportive housing

Housing that provides ongoing assistance so residents can live independently:

  • It's available for people who are homeless or at risk-of-homelessness and who may have barriers to housing such as mental illness or substance use
  • It can be housing for seniors and others who require services such as meals, housekeeping, 24-hour response system and social and recreational activities
  • It does not include personal assistance services such as bathing, dressing, or medication assistance

Transition houses

Temporary housing for women and children fleeing violence. Transition houses provide housing, food, crisis intervention and referrals. All provincially-funded transition houses have around-the-clock staff coverage. Typically, stays do not exceed 30 days.

Transitional housing

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.

The content on this website is periodically reviewed and updated by the Province of British Columbia as per the date noted on each page: February 19, 2018.