Programs »

Glossary of HUD-Speak Terms

As you organize, you will come across many terms and acronums that may be unfamiliar to you. Tenant activists call this language “HUD-speak”. This technical and special language creates a barrier which prevents low-income people and others from understanding issues that affect our lives and keeps us from knowing how to expand our rights. Here are plain-English translations of some of the more common terms you will encounter.

  • Eyes and Ears: Regional meetings initiated by both the Tenants Union and NAHT with tenant associations and local and national HUD multifamily housing staff to meet face to face and identify problems and work out solutions.
  • Fair Market Rent (FMR): The rent amount determined by HUD and sometimes used to set the standard for how much rent HUD will give an owner. HUD figures FMR by looking at all the rents in a given area, generally a region around a city, and figuring out 90% of the average rent in the area.
  • FOIA (Freedom of Information Act): A law that requires requested information to be provided within ten working days. The public can file FOIA requests by sending a letter to a government agency and requesting information.
  • Haircut: A “haircut” is the same thing as an OMHAR Lite. It is a version of the “Mark to Market” program in which HUD reduces the amount of money an owner receives in rent. A haircut is a building where the owner of a Section 8 property gets a cut in the rent they are receiving from HUD but decides not to accept the financial incentives HUD offers. By refusing the incentives, the owner avoids being required to sign a 30-year Section 8 contract and just goes on renewing year by year.
  • Housing Choice Voucher: See Section 8 Voucher.
  • Housing Quality Standards: Maintenance and safety standards used by HUD to evaluate apartments in subsidized housing programs.
  • HUD: The US Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is the federal agency that was set up to oversee and administer public and subsidized housing programs. It also provides funds to cities, states, and counties for homeless programs, rent assistance, and urban development.
  • HUD Assisted Multifamily Housing: Housing owned privately, but subsidized by the federal government.
  • LIHPRHA: This acronym stands for “Low Income Housing Preservation and Resident Home Ownership Act”. Until the government began the massive deregulation of social services in the past decade (which ended LIHPRHA), this program gave Section 8 tenants the first right to purchase their building and money to buy it should it go up for sale or the owner decide to get out of the program.
  • Mark To Market: A HUD program that requires a reduction in the amount of money the government pays to owners of buildings down to the amount of rent the building could earn on the open market. In exchange for this reduction, HUD gives the owner additional funds for rehabilitation. If an owner goes through the Mark to Market program then they must sign a 30 year Section 8 contract.
  • Mark Up To Market: A HUD program that increases the amount of money the government pays to owners of building up to the amount of rent the building could earn on the open market. In exchange for these additional funds, the owner must sign a 5-year contract to stay in the Section 8 program.
  • NAHT (National Alliance of HUD Tenants): A nationwide coalition of tenant associations and supporting organizations that work to preserve and defend subsidized housing.
  • OMHAR Lite: The same thing as a “Haircut”. It is a version of the “Mark to Market” program where HUD reduces the amount of money an owner receives in rent. A haircut is a building where the owner of a Section 8 property gets a cut in the rent they are receiving from HUD but decides not to accept the financial incentives HUD offers. By refusing the incentives the owners avoids being required to sign a 30 year Section 8 contract and just goes on renewing year by year.
  • Opt-out: A term that describes when an owner decides to get out of the Project-based Section 8 housing program.
  • Payment Standard: The maximum amount of rent subsidy the housing authority will provide to a tenant who has tenant-based Section 8.
  • Project-based Section 8: Subsidized housing assistance in which the private owner of the building has a “Section 8 Contract” with HUD, and the tenant pays only 30% of their income for rent. Prepayment: When an owner pays off the remaining debt on an insured or subsidized mortgage. Prepaying the loan absolves them of any obligation to maintain low rents or follow other requirement of the regulatory agreement.
  • Public Housing: Subsidized housing owned by the state or federal government and administrated by local agencies such as the Seattle Housing Authority.
  • Right of First Refusal: A law the Tenants Union has been trying to get passed in the city of Seattle to give tenants the first right to buy their building if an owner chooses to sell, since LIHPRHA no longer exists.
  • Seattle Housing Authority: Local agency that oversees the public housing projects and the tenant-based Section 8 certificate and voucher programs.
  • REAC: The Real Estate Assessment Center- A HUD department located in Washington DC which is responsible for doing all the inspections of HUD owned, subsidized or managed property.
  • Section 8 Tenant Organizing Project (STOP): A project of the Tenants Union to organize tenants in at-risk Section 8 buildings.
  • Section 8 Voucher: A portable rent subsidy, a voucher or certificate, given to individual tenants through the housing authority that only covers the difference between 30% of a tenant’s income and the payment standard set by the housing authority. This means that tenants are often priced out of the market. Also called Housing Choice Voucher.
  • Tenant Relocation Assistance Act: A Seattle law which requires owners to provide money to help a tenant move if they are displaced as a result of a rent increase of 20% or more after an owner opts out of a project-based subsidy.
  • TRN: Tenant Resource Network grant issued by HUD to fund tenant organizations doing preservation work in HUD multifamily buildings.