The meaning of social housing differs among European countries. The aim of social housing is providing decent and affordable housing below market rents. The term includes public and subsidized housing provided by public or local authorities or limited-profit housing companies, housing co-operatives and social housing associations.

The term also includes systems with income based or social rents (like in Portugal) and cost-based rents covering the maintenance and renovation of the building (like in Austria). Tenants in the social housing sector usually receive housing allowances (subsidies), if they aren’t able to pay their rents (see Council of Europe Development Bank 2018, 34)

All Member States except Greece have a stock of social housing. 25 million European households thus occupy social housing for which conditions for local and regional planning, access and prices are set directly by the public authorities in the Member States  (Source: Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘Issues with defining social housing as a service of general economic interest’ (own-initiative opinion) (2013/C 44/09))