This reference page contains definitions of key terms as they are applied within the National Disaster Housing Strategy Resource Center. The National Disaster Housing Strategy serves two purposes. First, it describes how the country currently provides housing to those affected by disasters, and secondly the Strategy charts the new direction that disaster housing efforts must take to better meet the evolving needs of disaster victims and communities.
Please also visit the National Disaster Housing Strategy Resource Center to review resources related to the "Strategy".
211 System: A telephone service reference system for applicants and case managers. Similar to the 411 general information system, the 211 system expedites the process of searching for services by phone and aids in Disaster Case Management.
Applicant: An individual or the head of a household who has applied for Federal disaster assistance. 44 CFR 206.111
Client: An applicant that has registered with FEMA and determined eligible for Federal assistance by FEMA. This term is used in conjunction with disaster case management services.
Commercial Site: A site customarily leased for a fee, which is fully equipped to accommodate a modular housing unit.
Community Site: A site provided by the State or local government that accommodates two or more modular units and is complete with utilities.
Continued Temporary Housing Assistance: The process for determining an applicant's need for continued temporary housing assistance (CTHA), sometimes known as Rental Recertification.
Dependent: Someone who is normally claimed as such on the Federal tax return of another, according to the Internal Revenue Code. It may also mean the minor children of a couple not living together, where the children live in the affected residence with the parent or guardian who does not actually claim them on the tax return. 44 CFR 206.111
Direct Assistance: Assistance provided to disaster survivors by the Federal Government in the form of physical resources; essentially all assistance that is not provided monetarily. This includes housing units that are acquired by purchase or lease, directly for individuals or households who, because of a lack of available housing resources, would be unable to make use of financial assistance as well as direct activities by the government to repair or rent units, such as contracting with a company to repair a rental property.
Duplication of Benefits: Assistance provided from different sources for the same specific need.
Essential Services: Services necessary to a basic standard of living and the general welfare of society. Services may include any of the following: electricity services, gas services, water and sewerage services, etc.
Existing Rental Property: Property that has been used prior to a disaster as rental property. This includes mobile units, single family units, and multi-family units.
Fair Market Rent (FMR): An amount determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to be the monthly cost of modest, non-luxury rental units in a specific market area, plus the cost of utilities, excluding telephone service. This amount is updated yearly based on accumulated data collected by HUD.
Financial Assistance: Monetary assistance provided to individuals and households to rent alternative housing accommodations, existing rental units, manufactured housing, recreational vehicles, or other readily fabricated dwellings. Such assistance may include the payment of the cost of utilities (excluding telephone service) or funds to be used for repair and replacement of housing and/or personal property.
Government Owned Property: Property that is owned by government for reasons including foreclosure and prior ownership. This applies to governments at all levels, including local, State and Federal, and applies to single family units as well as multi-family units.
Host State: A State, territory, commonwealth, or tribe that, by agreement with an impact-State or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provides evacuation and sheltering support to individuals from another State that has received a Presidential emergency or major disaster declaration, due to an incident.
Household: All residents of the pre-disaster residence who request temporary housing assistance, plus any additions during the temporary housing period, such as infants, spouses, or part-time residents who were not present at the time of the disaster but who are expected to return during the temporary housing period. 44 CFR 206.111
Individual with Disabilities: Any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment. This is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition.
Interim Housing: The intermediate period of housing assistance that covers the gap between sheltering and the return of disaster survivors to permanent housing. Generally, this period may span from the day after the disaster is declared through a period up to 18 months.
Joint Field Office (JFO): A temporary Federal multi-agency coordination center established locally to facilitate field-level domestic incident management activities, and provides a central location for coordination of Federal, State, local, tribal, nongovernmental, and private-sector organizations with primary responsibility for activities associated with threat response and incident support.
Local Government: (A) a county, municipality, city, town, township, local public authority, school district, special district, intrastate district, council of governments (regardless of whether the council of governments is incorporated as a nonprofit corporation under State law), regional or interstate government entity, or agency or instrumentality of a local government; (B) an Indian tribe or authorized tribal organization, or Alaska Native village or organization; and (C) a rural community, unincorporated town or village, or other public entity, for which an application for assistance is made by a State. 44 CFR 206.111
Long-Term Housing: Safe, sanitary, and secure housing that can be sustained without continued disaster-related assistance.
Low Income: Federal agencies and programs may-within the boundaries set by Federal law-establish their own guidelines for defining low-income populations. For the purposes of this document, low-income populations are defined as such by the agencies determining program eligibility:
- HUD defines a low-income household as a household whose total income does not exceed 80 percent of the median income for the area, as determined by HUD, with adjustments for smaller and larger families, except that HUD may establish income ceilings higher or lower than 80 percent of the median for the area on the basis of HUD's findings that such variations are necessary because of prevailing levels of construction costs or fair market rents, or unusually high or low family incomes. HUD income limits are updated annually and are available from local HUD offices for the appropriate jurisdictions.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) does not define "low-income," but it issues poverty guidelines in the Federal Register each year for use in determining eligibility for certain of its means-tested programs. These guidelines simplify poverty thresholds issued by the Census Bureau for use for administrative purposes such as determining financial eligibility for certain Federal programs. For example, the 2008 HHS poverty guidelines indicate that the poverty level for a family of four in the 48 contiguous States and the District of Columbia was $21,200.
- USDA Rural Development follows HUD's definition for a low-income household.
Major Disaster: Any natural catastrophe (including any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought), or, regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or explosion, in any part of the United States, which in the determination of the President causes damage of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant major disaster assistance under this Act to supplement the efforts and available resources of States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations in alleviating the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused thereby. 44 CFR 206.111
Multi-family Housing: The definition of multi-family housing varies from agency to agency. The definitions include:
- DHS/FEMA. For the purposes of the Rental Repair Pilot, multi-family housing means a property consisting of more than four units (dwellings). The term includes apartments, cooperative buildings and condominium.
- HUD. A property consisting of five or more units, also including health care facilities.
- Veterans Affairs (VA). A property consisting of two or more rental units.
National Emergency Management Information System (NEMIS): An integrated data management system that automates management of disaster response and recovery operations, including application registration, processing, and payment of assistance to disaster survivors.
Nongovernmental Organization (NGO): An entity with an association that is based on interests of its members, individuals, or institutions. It is not created by a government, but it may work cooperatively with government. Such organizations serve a public purpose, not a private benefit. Examples of NGOs include faith-based charity organizations and the American Red Cross. NGOs, including voluntary and faith-based groups, provide relief services to sustain life, reduce physical and emotional distress, and promote the recovery of disaster survivors. Often these groups provide specialized services that help individuals with disabilities. NGOs and voluntary organizations play a major role in assisting emergency managers before, during, and after an emergency.
Permanent Housing: This refers to the state of "long-term housing."
Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA): A joint assessment used to determine the magnitude and impact of an event's damage. A FEMA/State team will usually visit local applicants and view their damage first-hand to assess the scope of damage and estimate repair costs. The State uses the results of the PDA to determine if the situation is beyond the combined capabilities of the State and local resources and to verify the need for supplemental Federal assistance. The PDA also identifies any unmet needs that may require immediate attention.
Private Site: A site provided or obtained by the applicant at no cost to the Federal Government. 44 CFR 206.111
Reasonable commuting distance: A commuting distance that does not place undue hardship on an applicant. This also takes into consideration the traveling time involved due to road conditions, e.g., mountainous regions or bridges out, and the normal commuting patterns of the area. The US Census Bureau publishes the average travel time to work (in minutes) by State and county, as well as the percentage of residents who work within the county they live in as opposed to adjoining counties. The US Census Bureau is the preferred method of quantifying the "normal commuting patterns of the area" when attempting to determine the availability of housing resources.
Recertification: The process for determining an applicant's need for Continued Temporary Housing Assistance (CTHA) or continued need for a temporary housing unit or mobile home unit.
Rehabilitation: The return of infrastructure damaged by a major disaster to a safe and sanitary living or functioning condition. Specifically refers to returning infrastructure to a habitable condition.
Repair: The return of infrastructure damaged by a major disaster to a safe and sanitary living or functioning condition.
Recovery Information Management System (RIMS): A web based information management system designed to expand disaster data access in order to increase data accuracy and streamline reporting processes.
Service Animals: Any guide dog, signal dog, assistive dog, seizure dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including but not limited to guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items. Service animals shall be treated as required by laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Shelter: A place of refuge that provides life-sustaining services in a congregate facility for individuals who have been displaced by an emergency or a disaster.
Sheltering: Housing that provides short-term refuge and life-sustaining services for disaster survivors who have been displaced from their homes and are unable to meet their own immediate post-disaster housing needs.
Short Term Housing: This refers to the states of "sheltering" and "interim housing."
Social Services: Services designated to provide meaningful opportunities for social and economic growth of the disadvantaged sector of the population in order to develop them into productive and self-reliant citizens and promote social equity. Basic social services of the government include self-employment assistance and practical skills development assistance.
Special Needs Populations: As defined in the National Response Framework, special needs populations are those whose members may have additional needs before, during, and after an incident in functional areas, including but not limited to: maintaining independence, communication, transportation, supervision, and medical care. Individuals in need of additional response assistance may include those who have disabilities, live in institutionalized settings, are elderly, are children, are from diverse cultures, have limited English proficiency or are non-English speaking, or are transportation disadvantaged.
Temporary Housing: Temporary accommodations provided by the Federal Government to individuals or families whose homes are made unlivable by an emergency or a major disaster. 44 CFR 206.111
Unmet Needs: The deficit between verified disaster-caused damages and obtainable disaster aid, including insurance assistance, Federal and State assistance, and personal resources.
Very Low Income: For federal housing programs, a household income of 50 percent of the area median by household size. HUD data is used to calculate very low-income limits.
Wrap-Around Services: The delivery of infrastructure and additional essential services to address disaster-related needs of affected residents living in temporary housing sites. These services go beyond the physical need for housing or political subdivision of a State and typically include basic social services and access to utilities, transportation, grocery stores, and medical and employment facilities.