Learning from other countries

Learning from other countries

Social housing

In Denmark many people live in social housing, which is seen as a public right rather than as part of the welfare system. A large proportion of Danes are owner-occupiers or live in highly regulated private rented accommodation, while many others live in ‘co-operative housing’ (a half-way house between renting and owning, in which people buy a share in the co-op and are entitled to live in one of the apartments in the development, which is a cornerstone of affordable housing and a well-established route into home ownership for the younger generation). However, social housing makes up around 20% of Danish housing stock and is provided by at cost prices by around 700 not-for-profit housing associations, who together own around 8,000 housing estates. Waiting lists are open to everyone aged 15 or over, and most vacant units are assigned on the basis of time on the waiting list and household size, although priority can also be given to specific groups based on locally defined criteria such as families with children, disabled people, refugees, the elderly, students, divorced people, and people who need to move closer to their work. In deprived areas with many unemployed inhabitants, priority can be given to ‘role models’ such as people with a job or students.

Rented housing

Regulation of the private rented sector in the UK is much lighter than in many other countries. For example, in the UK, there is no regulation of rent levels, and rent increases are only regulated for rolling tenancies with no fixed end date. By contrast, in Germany, regulation of extortion in the criminal code limits the free setting of rent levels and rent caps apply in certain areas, so that rent cannot exceed the reference level by more than 10%. In Spain, rent increases cannot exceed the rise in the general price index for a five-year period.

Housing markets

However, the general trend in many European countries is towards more neoliberal housing policies. A recent academic article noted that governments across Europe are ‘withdrawing from large scale intervention in the workings of the housing markets, financial support for housing production is cut to very little or nothing, support for housing consumption is targeted only to those most in need, and housing markets are deregulated’.