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Social Housing in Europe


Brussels, 27 March 2010 | Published in Research

What is social housing?

In Sweden the term “social housing” is not used. The corresponding sector is called “allmännyttig”, which literally means “public utility” or “for the benefit of everybody”. In an international context the concept “public housing” is appropriate. This sector consists of rental dwellings, owned by municipal housing companies that are organized as joint-stock companies (limited companies). In most cases the local authorities hold all the shares. These housing companies have a general interest objective to promote the provision of housing in their municipality but operate on business-like principles.

Who provides social housing?

Municipal housing companies must work for the purpose of promoting public benefit and they must have a general interest objective by promoting the supply of housing in the municipality not only housing for the most vulnerable but for all kinds of people.

How is social housing financed?

There are no general housing subsidies anymore. Investments in public housing must be financed by the income coming from the rents. Public housing companies have no special benefits or advantages compared to the private rental sector.

Who can access social housing?

To avoid stigmatisation of public housing estates or residential areas the sector is open to anybody. There are no income limits or other similar ones. The purpose is to provide housing for all, also for the less advantaged. However, in practise it is typically not rich people who live in the public housing sector. In comparison to other sectors and tenure forms, the residents in public housing are on average less well off. They have a lower income, show higher unemployment rates and receive more social benefits. They are also to a greater extent single persons or single parents and more often immigrants.