Social Housing 101: What Is It and Who Is It For

Affordable Housing

Social housing, simply defined, is affordable rented housing for low-income people provided by the local government or by private organizations and/or housing associations. ENM Construction Management, for example, under the leadership of project manager Dan Greenhalgh, has partnered with Habitat for Humanity and is projecting to be able to provide more than 100,000 affordable homes in the coming decade.

To truly appreciate the magnitude and the impact of such an endeavor, we have to understand what makes up social housing, its purpose, and its target.

Up until now, humans have worked and lived primarily in rural areas; however, studies show that soon, humanity will “leave its rural past behind” and journey and stay, more and more in urban areas. In 2008, more than half of the globe’s population then, almost 3.3 billion individuals, are living in towns and cities. Imagine that number today, ten years later.

That is why ENM Construction Management, along with other private organizations are slowly recognizing the importance of affordable housing. Although hampered by not just a few barriers toward social housing for all, they continue to work toward providing budget shelter for all.

Barriers to social housing mainly include:

  • Land use regulations – which include restrictions on land use in terms of size and purpose and the red tape involve in processing permits, which increases the total land use cost, further making affordable housing improbable.
  • Planning and design – in connection with restrictions in land use, certain requirements in design (for example, minimum home size) limit how much affordable a home can be made. Such limits, arbitrary in nature, hamper greatly the ability of housing organizations to provide social housing.
  • Funding – as seen above, social housing isn’t really profitable, as such, funders are difficult to come by; add to that, increased costs in taxes, permits, and other make it even harder. Incentives are currently being offered for organizations will to take the risk and fund social housing projects.

Let us delve deeper into what social housing is by identifying its core characteristics.

Social Housing is…


  • …affordable housing
    First and foremost, social housing is residents with low incomes, thus, social housing should provide accommodation that is affordable. Limits to rent cost and increases are set by law so as to maintain its affordability.



  • …distributed based on need
    Unlike the private sector where housing is given depending on the decision of the homeowner, or to whoever can afford, social housing is allocated depending on who needs it the most. In most instances, a local council decides on an allocation scheme, which defines who should get priority in waiting lists.



  • …owned and managed by registered providers
    Known as social landlords, these are bodies that own and manage affordable housing. They normally are non-commercial organizations, independent and non-profit, only looking to build up enough capital to maintain current homes and startup new ones. Although private organizations, like the one helmed by Dan Greenhalgh, are beginning to take part in this endeavor, it is still not a common practice.



  • …is regulated
    Since social housing is few in most places, allocation is strictly regulated, usually by the country’s national housing agencies.


Be more aware of social housing. Encourage and support moves that aim to break the ever growing and multiplying barriers toward affordable housing.

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