The Danish Social Housing Sector | Rules, organised efforts and how to find a dwelling

In this article we shall dive into the area of the Danish social housing sector. 

Specifically, we shall take a look at which initiatives the social housing sector in Denmark is putting forward to secure that every Danish citizen has a proper place to live. Furthermore, if you are looking to acquire a new home at a social housing organisation we will also show you how to move forward.

What is social housing?

The term “social housing” refers to the establishment and availability of housing options for citizens with lower income, or citizens which are in need of cheap or social housing for other reasons.

When talking about social housing, one typically refers to one of three types of housing:

  • housing for whole families of either low income or social exposure
  • housing for the elderly in need of regular care (also known as “care homes”)
  • housing for young adults or students

Who comprises the Danish social housing sector?

In Denmark the social housing sector is primarily comprised of private social housing organisations. However, some care homes for the elderly are run by the municipalities.

There are approximately 700 social housing organisations across the whole of Denmark. Together, they own and maintain approximately 595,000 dwellings – being about 20 percent of the total amount of dwellings in the country.

The private social housing organisations in Denmark are specifically regulated in Danish law. Furthermore, they are subject to frequent municipal supervision.

Why are social housing organisations so popular in Denmark?

In Denmark private social housing organisations are widespread and popular. Almost every citizen in the country has, at some point or another, been housed in a home belonging to a social housing organisation. 

Why are the social housing organisations so popular, then? The reason for their popularity is found in several factors:

  • They offer cheap housing
  • They offer transparent regarding decisions made and economical matters
  • They offer a variety of housing options
  • They offer security and peace of mind
  • They let the tenants participate in decision-making processes

Another reason for the popularity of the social housing organisations in Denmark may be found in the non-profit nature of such organisations. Denmark is, at least when compared to many other places, a country with a sharp socialist nerve running straight through the crowds. Citizens generally hail private efforts to improve society without at the same time making a considerable profit.

Regulation: How Danish law directs the efforts of the social housing organisations in Denmark

As previously mentioned, all Danish social housing organisations are subject to specific excerpts of Danish law, and must undergo frequent municipal supervision. The reason is to ensure that all social housing organisations work together to secure proper terms and cheap homes for the residents, as well as aiding in public efforts to guarantee exposed groups against homelessness.

Below are a number of general management targets which the Danish law appoints for the social housing organisations in Denmark:

  • The housing organisation must ensure the responsible and efficient management of the housing organisation and its divisions.
  • The social housing divisions must function well financially as well as socially and appear physically to be modern and well-maintained.
  • Buildings must be of high quality, and the housing organisation should seek to obtain the highest possible value for the funds invested. Expenses and rent should be kept to such a level as to allow the dwellings to be let in accordance with the objectives.
  • When letting dwellings, the housing organisation must favour groups that have difficulties in acquiring housing at general market terms. Moreover, the housing organisation must promote a varied composition of residents.
  • The housing organisation management must exercise good management ethics and work to promote efficient resident participation.

The act also states that the social housing organisation should work together with the local council in order to implement the above objectives.

The social housing organisation’s role in preventing formation of ghettos

The Danish ghetto policy consists of efforts to prevent large social housing estates from forming parallel societies – so called “ghettos”.

Ghettos are characterised by several factors, including for example:

  • Large unemployment rates
  • Low income
  • Higher criminality rates
  • Low education

Back in 2014 a fifth criterion was publicly instantiated as well to help define what a ghetto was in Danish society. According to this fifth criterion a largo proportion of immigrants in a designated social housing area could be a determining factor when defining an area as a ghetto. Today this is no longer a criterion. Still, the media are paying lip-service to this criterion – large proportions of immigrants – as being defining of a ghetto.

Formations of ghettos are not healthy for society. Among the disadvantages publicly recognised we may mention: 

  • The negative effects of parallel societies on immigration, as well as the counteracting of efforts in areas such as employment and social welfare. Furthermore, parallel societies will also leave children and younger people with detrimental prospects for finding jobs or getting an education
  • Housing estates which are isolated both physically as well as socially from the surrounding communities facilitate the emergence of detrimental parallel societies with deviant values and norms of behavior, constituting a threat to social cohesion and democratic participation

The Danish municipalities cooperate with the social housing organisations in Denmark to prevent the formation of ghettos. Here are some of the specific efforts that are made:

  • Through demolitions and strategic rebuilding the “fortress like” appearance of certain buildings owned by the social housing organisations are dealt with
  • Through specific but varied placements of exposed families and groups the social housing organisations aim for a more balanced compositions of residents in all housing areas
  • The establishment of job centres in ghetto areas to transfer more residents from passive income support to a job

Some of these initiatives are primarily on the shoulders of the social housing organisations; others are publicly dealt with.

How to find your new home in a social housing organisation

It is generally not that hard in Denmark to find a new home in the social housing organisations. Typically you can go to the website of the local social housing organisation, where you will see the freely available options. You can also call them, or physically meet them at their office.

You will often encounter waiting lists for the more in-demand dwells in most social housing organisations. However, if you satisfy one or more of the following conditions, you will have prioritised access to a social housing dwelling:

  • If you are elderly or handicapped you will take priority to certain dwellings specifically suited to elderly or handicapped people
  • If you already reside in a dwelling belonging to the social housing organisation your applications take priority over external applications
  • If you are homeless you will take priority over people who already have a place to live
  • If you are a family with several children you can make arrangements with the social housing organisation, together with the local authorities, to ensure prioritised access to dwellings specifically suited for large families