Annex A. Country notes: Approaches to financing affordable housing in Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Slovenia

The four country notes presented in this Annex were produced as part of in-depth peer learning exchanges with Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Slovenia. Each of the four countries operate a revolving fund scheme for affordable housing, though the approaches vary considerably across countries:

  • Austria does not have a stand-alone revolving fund per se, but rather a system of actors and financing tools functions as a self-sustaining financing mechanism. LPHA have high equity shares and, as a result, they are regarded as very secure lenders and receive commercial loans at favourable conditions. Low-profit housing associations (LPHA) finance 100% of land cost and 10-20% of the construction costs of new projects from their equity; tenant contributions (3-7%) and have access to public loans regulated by federal provinces at favourable terms and public construction grants like other private and for-profit housing investors. Housing finance loans must be repaid to regional authorities to be re-invested in future housing projects. Contrary to for-profit developers, surpluses generated by the LPHA must be reinvested into affordable housing;

  • In Denmark, the National Building Fund, established in 1967, is a dedicated, independent housing fund. Initial capital came from contributions from a gradual rent increase in the social housing sector (as per a political agreement in 1966); currently, funding is based on a share of tenants’ rents (2.8% annually of the total acquisition cost of the property), in addition to housing associations’ contributions to mortgage loans (~3% of the property development cost).

  • Like Austria, the Netherlands does not have a dedicated revolving housing fund. Rather, housing associations can access the guarantee fund for social housing construction (the WSW – Waarborgfonds Sociale Woningbouw) that backs the largest share of outstanding capital market loans. This system of housing associations together operates as a sort of revolving fund, based on the ability of housing associations to access lower interest rates from the WSW and their co-operation agreement to bail out housing associations if/when required. The State and municipalities serve as guarantors of last resort.

  • In Slovenia, the Housing Fund of the Republic of Slovenia (HFRS) is a public, state-owned financial and real estate fund. The Fund was established in 1991 to finance the National Housing Programme and encourage housing construction and the renovation and maintenance of apartments and residential buildings. While the Fund operates within the framework of the state, it is nonetheless a separate legal entity and financially independent, acquiring and managing long-term capital investments for its own purposes. A share of the rental income and revenues from apartment sales constitute the revolving elements of the scheme.

Experts from each peer country took part in a series of bilateral policy exchange workshops organised by the OECD between December 2021 and July 2022, with the participation of a range of Latvian stakeholders, as well as representatives from the OECD and the European Commission. The notes reflect inputs from a range of national and local institutions and experts from each country:

  • Austria: Federal Ministry for Digitalisation and Economic Affairs; Regional Government of Lower Austria (Niederösterreich); Limited Profit Housing Association.

  • Denmark: Housing and Planning Agency; the National Building Fund; Copenhagen Municipality; Organisation of non-profit housing associations (Danmarks Almene Boliger – BL); Organisation for banking, mortgage credit, asset management, securities trading and investment funds (Finans Danmark).

  • The Netherlands: Housing Associations Department of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations; the Housing Associations Authority (Autoriteit woningcorporaties – AW); the Social Housing Guarantee Fund (Waarborgfonds Sociale Woningbouw – WSW); Association of Housing Corporations (AEDES); BNG Bank (Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten), NWB Bank (Nederlandse Waterschapsbank).

  • Slovenia: Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning; the Housing Fund of the Republic of Slovenia; the Public Housing Fund of Ljubljana.

Austria records one of the largest shares of tenant households in the OECD (44% of all households), while owner-occupiers comprise around 48% of all households, of which more than 29% own their dwelling outright (see Figure 2.2). Among OECD countries, it has the second-largest subsidised rental housing stock in the OECD (24% of the total housing stock in 2019). This high average ratio across the country masks the even greater importance of social housing in the capital city, Vienna, where the share is 43% (OECD, 2022[1]). Less than 5% of all households are overburdened by housing costs (meaning that they spend over 40% of their disposable income on housing), with the share reaching around 18% among households in the bottom quintile of the income distribution above.

This relatively strong performance results from a specific way of supplying and managing social housing, which involves municipalities and limited-profit housing associations. Both pillars of the system matter: for instance, in Vienna, 22% of households live in social housing provided by the municipal government and 21% in social housing provided by the limited-profit housing associations. Across Austria, limited-profit associations manage more than two-thirds of the social housing stock. They generally provide high-quality housing at a below-market rate to low and medium-income households. They are the tenure of choice for many low- and middle-income households, thus providing a good social mix in that it is not limited to only the poorest or neediest households. They manage over 900 000 social housing units (two-thirds of which are designated for tenants) and build between 12 000 to 15 000 new homes every year, equivalent to 25-30% of total residential construction (OECD, 2021[2]).1 Over the past two decades, real house prices in Austria have steadily increased, nevertheless showing much less volatility than those in Latvia (Figure A A.1).

Institutional set-up

Housing policy is mainly set at the regional/federal government level, via housing subsidy laws and regulations. Affordable/social housing in Austria is provided by both local government (municipalities) and limited-profit housing associations (LPHA). LPHA account for more than two-thirds of the social and affordable housing stock, while local authorities account for a bit less than one-third.

The limited-profit housing sector has deep roots in the country. It originates from i) the 19th century co-operatives movement, a communal self-organisation providing services distinct from both the market’s economy and the state supply, ii) workers’ housing provided by employers and iii) municipalities and regional authorities, who outsourced the provision of local affordable housing to limited-profit housing associations, remaining (partly) owners of these organisations. The first housing fund, which has now developed into a federal state’s subsidy model, was set up during the monarchy at the beginning of the 20th century (Wohnungs-Fürsorgefonds) (GBV, 2018[4]).

Today, LPHA are a distinctive third sector in the housing market; they are neither state-owned nor profit-driven. They are independent institutions, owned by local public authorities, charity organisations, parties, unions, companies, the financing industry or private persons. Their main activities consists in basic housing provision, the encouragement of property ownership or the promotion of rented housing, improvements in housing quality, barrier-free accessibility and climate policy goals; in addition to LPHA, municipalities such as Vienna also provide affordable and social housing (GBV, 2018[4]). Their activity and regulatory framework are regulated by the limited-profit housing Act (in German Wohnungsgemeinnützigkeitsgesetz, WGG) and monitored by the Audit Associations and Regional Government. The Limited-profit Housing Act is regularly revised to keep in line with the national political needs.

By operating according to the principles set in the limited-profit housing Act, the LPHA are exempt from paying corporation tax for their core activities. The fundamental principles defined in the Limited-profit Housing Act are:

  • Limitation of business activities to construction, maintenance and renovation of buildings in line with the interest of generational fairness and sustainable long-term housing supply;

  • Limitation of profits for stockholders to maximum 3.5% of nominal capital invested with obligations to re-invest the generated surplus in housing construction, maintenance and renovation;

  • Non-speculative nature of homes built by LPHA in perpetuity (even after the repayment of public loans);

  • Coverage of costs as principle for calculating rents (cost-based principle during the repayment of the loans);

  • Independence of the personnel working for the limited-profit housing associations from the construction sector and restriction of salaries within statutory limits;

  • Regular yearly audit and monitoring activity in order to check the compliance with the Regulation set in the LPHA Act, the conformity to the accounting principles, the operating efficiency of the company and suitability of management.

The unique business model of housing associations mainly relies on funding loans, cost-based rents and the direct reinvestment of the surplus in construction and renovation of dwellings once loans are paid back. Furthermore, part of the rent goes into a rehabilitation fund dedicated to the renovation of buildings. Strict (national and regional) regulations on the quality of the building, both social and environmental, also ensure the high quality of affordable housing.

Funding resources and specifications of the financing mechanism

Today, projects developed by limited-profit housing associations are typically financed by multiple sources. Figure A A.2 illustrates the project-financing scheme for a typical housing project run by housing associations in Austria.

LPHA usually finance 100% of land costs and around 10-20% of construction costs of a new project from their own equity. The equity of LPHA increases mainly from two sources: i) the surpluses of the older housing stock for which loans have been repaid (LPHA continue to charge “basic-rent” of around EUR 1.8/m2 to tenants after the repayment of loans) and ii) the 3.5% interest on LPHA equity invested.

A key feature of the financing system of the Austrian limited-profit housing associations is the role of tenants. Tenants contribute to the financing of LPHA activities (3-7% on average) by granting a quasi-loan to the association, in the form of a down payment, which does not exceed 12.5% of the total construction costs and a share in land costs. This amount is given back to tenants at the time of moving out depreciated by 1% for each year of occupation of the dwelling. Low-income households which cannot afford to pay such amount can get a public loan with 1% interest.

In addition to their own equity, most of the funding comes from both public loans and commercial loans. Public and commercial bank loans represent respectively around 36% and 39% of the funding sources. Public loans are regulated and provided by the federal provinces and are conditional on upholding the rules set in the federal subsidy laws. They have favourable financing terms, with interest rates between 0.5 and 1.5% and 35 years of maturity.

Given the high credit worthiness due to co-finance with State and clear ownership structure that characterises limited-profit housing associations, commercial bank loans are also granted at favourable terms, with interest rates of 0.75% below other commercial finance and 25 years maturity on average. An important source of commercial funding in Austria is provided through Housing Construction Convertible Bonds (HCCB), which are issued by special purpose banks (Wohnbaubanken). There are six Housing Construction Banks active in Austria since 1994 (subsidiaries of major Austrian banks). Their main task is to provide medium and long-term low-interest loans with 20-30 years maturity to affordable housing developers. The bonds benefit from tax advantages (waiver for capital income tax on the first 4% of HCCB coupon rate for investment in the sector; deduction of the cost of bonds purchased from income for tax purposes). The yields on HCCB is 0.5% to 0.75% lower than commercial bonds, and combined with the tax advantages it makes these long-term bonds attractive. While it has no government guarantee, it is, however, and the high credit worthiness of LPHA which makes it attractive to investors (Lawson, 2012[5]).

Additional construction grants for major rehabilitation, issued by the federal provinces, contribute to the financing of the fund (on average 5%).

Management and monitoring

The activities of LPHA are strictly regulated by the limited-profit housing Act and are limited to construction, maintenance and upgrading of dwellings. LPHA can also manage housing stock owned by local authorities. For example, in 2020 Housing Associations have invested almost EUR 3 billion per year into new construction and EUR 1 billion into renovation (Riessland, 2020[6]).

The business model of housing associations, defined in the limited-profit housing Act, is based on cost-recovery and a continuous re-investment of the surpluses into new construction or renovation. This implies that on average, housing association rents result 23% lower than market-rate rents. This difference is even higher in newly built dwellings. In practice, LPHA are required to set rents according to the cost-based principle during the repayment of the loans. This means that LPHA need to charge their tenants not more than the cost it takes to build and maintain a dwelling. In practice, LPHA financed by public loans need to respect ceilings in accordance with the regional/federal subsidy law related to passing on construction costs to tenants, or directly to (net) rents (e.g. current (net) rent in Vienna is equal to EUR 5/m2)2,.3 LPHA not financed by public loans also need to set rent according to cost-based principle but are not required to follow the rules set in the federal subsidy law. All homes built by LPHA remain non-speculative in perpetuity. This implies that, after the repayment of the loans, tenants are charged a basic rent of EUR 1.80/m2 (set by the government and adjusted every two years based on the Consumer Price Index).

Included in the (net) rent, housing associations also charge a monthly maintenance and improvement fee, which starts at EUR 0.50/m2 in the first years after construction and can be increased up to EUR 2/m2 starting from year 30. The income collected from this fee is allocated to a specific fund that finances building maintenance and improvement, and ensures that the dwellings provided by LPHA abide with the strict environmental and social regulations defined in the building code.

Additionally, housing associations are allowed to add 2% to build up a reserve fund to mitigate risks. The 2% fee remains in place also after the repayment of loans. This is mainly to cover the cost of vacant stock which occurs as part of normal turnover rate when tenants move in and out. Housing associations can also charge tenants up to 3.5% interest for the part of a building financed via a housing association’s own equity. This is added to the cost-based rent. They can charge a flat rate of approximately EUR 250 per year and per household to cover administrative costs. Eligible costs and activities are listed in the Limited-Profit Housing Act. The most important are:

  • Calculation and administration of rent payments (incl. rent arrears);

  • Calculation and administration of service charges;

  • Administration of repairs and renovation works;

  • Administration of lettings and sales;

  • Customer service, responding to customer enquiries, etc.

Both municipalities and LPHA allocate rights for affordable/social housing. If affordable/social housing is financed via public subsidies, municipalities have priority on the allocation rights and the rest is allocated by LPHA. Housing allocated by municipalities is means-tested and the income ceilings are stated in housing subsidy law and vary by federal province/region. The allocation of affordable housing via LPHA is regulated in the Limited-Profit Housing Act, and it is guided by housing needs, household size and household income (however, no explicit income limits are stated in the Limited-Profit Housing Act). Both municipalities and LPHA allocate housing according to a queue system for new buildings. Additionally, LPHA advertise their re-lets on their webpages like any other real estate company would do (of those that are not let via municipalities).

Tenants of dwellings owned by LPHA have the option of buying the dwelling after having been living in it for at least 5 years and having contributed with a certain amount (around EUR 70/m2) of their own funds to co-finance the costs of land or/and construction. Right-to-buy option is not allowed when the dwelling is owned by the municipality.

There is a very strict system of control over LPHA. All LPHA must have a supervisory board and be a member of the umbrella organisation, the Austrian Federation of Limited Profit Housing Associations. The umbrella organisation functions as a co-operative audit association (Revisionsverband), which is responsible for the annual auditing of LPHA. The Audit Association is responsible for the production of a yearly report, which analyses the compliances with standard accounting principles, but also with the limited-profit housing Act, the economy and operating efficiency of the company and the suitability of the management. The report has to be shared the auditing commission of the federal/regional governments, which can decide about the withdrawal of public subsidies and about the rescinding of the LPHA status. Ultimately, the Federal Ministry for Digitalisation and Economic Affairs (BMDW) act as external supervisors of the Austrian Federation of Limited Profit Housing Associations.

Housing represents a crucial policy sector in Denmark. Over the last few decades, Denmark has sustained significant housing policy expenditure, developing mature housing policies and high-quality housing stock. At the same time, Danish households record the third-highest levels of consumption expenditure on housing in the OECD (at 28% in 2019) – and well above the OECD average (22%). Households spend, on average, a large share of their incomes on housing: around 15% of all Danish tenants are considered to be overburdened by housing costs, calculated as the share of tenants spending over 40% of their disposable income on housing costs; the share reaches one-third of tenants in the bottom quintile of the income distribution. This may be due in part to a large number of students represented among low-income tenants (OECD, 2022[1]).

The Danish housing market is characterised by a large share of tenant households (nearly 49% of all households in 2020), and relatively low levels of homeownership (around 51% of households, of which only 15% are outright homeowners), ranking well below the OECD average (see Chapter 2). The importance of rental housing is driven in part by the large stock of social housing, which accounts for 21% of dwellings, the third largest share in the OECD behind the Netherlands and Austria (Chapter 2) (OECD, 2022[1]). Real house prices fell abruptly during the Global Financial Crisis, and did not begin to pick up again until Q2-2013. House price growth accelerated considerably during the COVID-19 crisis (Figure A A.3), as low interest rates, income growth among some households and forced savings increased the flow of resources into housing despite the economic contraction. Price growth was especially strong in Copenhagen.

In terms of internal migration, households tend to move from western parts of the country to larger urban centres in the east. In the coming decades, there may be a surplus of homes in some regions, while other regions may experience shortages. At the same time, as in many OECD countries, household formation patterns and demographics are evolving. Between now and 2040, the share of single person households is expected to increase, along with the share of the population 65 years and older. Policy makers will need to consider how to adapt the housing supply to meet evolving needs.

Institutional set-up

Social rental housing in Denmark emerged in the 19th century, with the first national legislation providing loans to associations of workers to build affordable housing in the 1890s (Blackwell, 2021[7]). In 1933, Denmark adopted the first act on subsidies for non-profit housing associations, to provide housing for lower income groups. Following the 1946 Housing Subsidy Act and the 1949 Regulation of Built-up Areas Act, social rental building activity accelerated, reaching its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, when about 10 000 new social housing units were constructed each year.

Over time, Danish social rental housing took the form of association-based models (Larsen and Lund Hansen, 2015[8]), where social housing is constructed and managed by non-profit housing organisations. The social housing sector is thus private and independent and subject to detailed public regulation.

The term “social housing” comprises three types of housing, categorised based on their target population: social dwellings for families, youth housing, and residences for the elderly. Today, social housing makes up about 21% of the total housing stock in Denmark. It comprises of around 7 100 100 individual social housing estates, which are organised into 520 housing associations throughout the country. There are a total of about 600 000 social housing units in Denmark, where approximately 1 million people reside (Housing Europe, 2021[9]).

Access to social housing is universal. There are no income limits on entry to social housing and young people aged 15 and over can register on waiting lists. Priority allocation is reserved for certain categories, such as families with children, people with disabilities, elderly or the homeless. Moreover, local governments allocate 25% of all housing units and adopt a means-tested approach (Larsen and Lund Hansen, 2015[8]). In spite of the inclusive approach of the Danish non-profit housing model, in practice, social housing residents record, on average, lower income levels and higher unemployment rates, as well as a higher share of single persons or single parents. According to the Danish social housing association, BL (Danmarks Almene Boliger), in the four largest cities, three out of five residents in social housing belong to the 40% of the population with the lowest incomes; around 17% of social tenants are students (Danish social housing association (BL), 2021[10]). This is partly because vulnerable groups have a general priority, but also because legal restrictions on the construction price and size of the dwellings affect demand.

The Danish model for affordable housing rests on three key pillars:

  • Tenant democracy. The Danish social housing sector has a tradition of tenant participation and self-governance. All Danish housing associations are managed on the principle of “tenant democracy”. This unique feature of the Danish social housing model enables tenants of housing associations to exert significant influence over estate management. Since the 1970s, each housing association has been led by a Management Board where residents have the majority, and municipalities are also often represented. Each estate owned by a housing association is treated as a separate financing entity and has its own local tenant board. Every year, at an annual tenant meeting, the tenants of each housing estate elect a tenant board responsible for estate management and financial governance. Majority votes of tenants are required for major changes (e.g. estate management rules and major maintenance and refurbishment projects). Among other things, tenants approve or alter the budget, as well as potential increases in rent levels (OECD, 2022[1]). A majority of tenants must also approve any proposed sales of dwellings in their estates. The sale of property (e.g. an entire building) also requires permission from the State. This model is beneficial for tenants, who can contribute to the management of their dwellings while housing associations take care of maintenance and operations. Moreover, the tenant democracy principle creates an incentive for tenants to play an active role in the housing sector and for landlords to be responsive to residents’ needs and to maintain affordable rental prices (Vestergaard, 2014[11]).

  • Non-profit sector. A key tenet of the social housing sector in Denmark is that no one profits from the rent. The social housing system is designed to prevent speculation and the rent is cost-based. The sector is grounded on the principle that tenants’ rent should be equal to the costs incurred by housing associations for building, maintaining and managing the dwellings (“rental balance principle”). Profits that may arise are earmarked for building and maintenance purposes.

  • Stable financing model. Regulations ensure that rents are kept affordable, stable and predictable. The State-guaranteed loans contribute to the repayment of the mortgage and housing benefits are provided for tenants in low-income groups.

Key actors in the social housing sector in Denmark include:

  • The Ministry of the Interior and Housing: develops housing policy, approves the Fund’s budget and ensures balance between urban and rural areas;

  • The Housing and Planning Agency (Bolig- og Planstyrelsen): an agency under the Ministry of the Interior and Housing with wide responsibilities, including the development of the social/affordable housing sector, urban renewal, construction, spatial planning and rural development;

  • The National Building Fund (Landsbyggefonden, LBF): a self-governing institution established by housing associations with the purpose of promoting the self-financing of housing construction, renovations and improvements, and neighbourhood amenities, without need for public direct funding.

  • Parliament: defined the Fund’s level and areas of investments in political agreements made every four years.

  • Municipalities provide capital, guarantees and subsidies to housing associations. They also approve rent schemes, administer rent subsidies, organise the production and maintenance of schemes and have a key role in monitoring and regulating associations. Aside from their major planning roles, including assessing housing needs, local authorities have the statutory responsibility of ensuring that all households are adequately housed. Danish municipalities may allocate a quarter of vacant social housing units to households in urgent need (the remainder are allocated via waiting lists).

  • Housing associations. The Danish social housing sector comprises almost 520 non-profit housing associations of varied size spread across urban areas and rural districts. Housing associations have responsibility for the allocation of flats and for making decisions to initiate new building projects, which must be approved by local government. Each association is subject to the authority of a governing body, a housing council (repræsentantskab) composed of a majority of tenant representatives, and the members of the executive board of directors (selskabsbestyrelse) which is nominated by the housing council (Engber, 2000[12]).

  • Tenants: Tenants hold a majority vote in the board of housing associations, where they influence issues such as estate management, budget, maintenance and refurbishment projects.

  • BL (Danmarks Almene Boliger), an interest/industry organisation for social housing associations; BL members cover almost the totality of all social housing organisations in Denmark.

  • Finans Danmark, an interest organisation for banking, mortgage credit, asset management, securities trading and investment funds in Denmark.

Funding resources and financing mechanisms

To understand how social housing is financed in Denmark, it is important to distinguish between i) the financing of the construction of new estates and ii) the financing of renovation of existing stock and a range of other activities which rely on the National Building Fund.

The development of new non-profit housing in Denmark is usually financed through a mix of private and public sources. The initial set-up for financing new estates consists of the following mix of funding:

  • Commercial loan from a mortgage institution (86-90% of the investment cost). Currently, lending is primarily based on a 30-year adjustable-rate nominal mortgage loan on real property. State subsidies are provided to support the repayment of these loans, reducing the costs for both housing providers (mortgage repayments) and tenants (rents). The National Building Fund refunds a share of these state subsidies. The state also guarantees the bonds behind the mortgage loans, reducing the financing costs for housing associations.

  • Municipal loans (8-12% of the investment cost). The municipality pays a portion of the cost up front in the form of an interest-free and instalment-free, 50-year loan. The exact percentage of costs paid by the municipality depends on the size of the individual social housing project being built.

  • An up-front payment by tenants’ (2% of the investment cost) is paid when residents take up residence. These deposits are repaid to the tenants at the end of their tenancy, minus expenses for normal repairs and any violation of their rental agreement.

On the other hand, the National Building Fund was established in 1967 and is a key pillar of the Danish model for social and affordable housing. The fund helps to ensure self-financing in the social and affordable housing sector without need for public direct funding. It is an independent institution that operates outside the state budget as a private fund. It is financed by a share of the rents of the 1 million tenants living in the social and affordable housing that is built and managed by non-profit housing organisations. The revolving fund is circular, serving as a savings account for the entire affordable and social housing sector (Housing Europe, 2021[9]). The initial capital of the Fund originated from contributions from a gradual rent increase in the social housing sector, which was established in a political agreement in 1966. Today, 99% of all housing associations in Denmark are members of and contribute to the National Building Fund.

Tenants’ rent payments of loan amount to 2.8% annually of the total acquisition cost of the property, in addition to housing associations’ contributions to mortgage loans, amounting to approximately 3% of the property acquisition cost overall. The rental payments are adjusted annually for the first 20 years after loan take-up, with the increase in the net price index or, if this has risen less, the private sector average earnings index. After the first 20 years, the amount is adjusted by 75% of the increase in these indices. Adjustments are made to rent levels for the last time in the 45th year following the loan take-up, after which they are maintained at the reached nominal level (Figure A A.4) (OECD, 2020[13]).

When the mortgage loans for the construction of the dwellings have been repaid, tenant rents contribute to the repayment of the State loan. Importantly, tenants continue to pay rent at the same level, with two-thirds of the rent going to the National Building Fund as savings. The ‘45th year’ mechanism is an interesting feature of the Danish system: rents are maintained at the same level as for the period of loan repayment, even though the loan has been fully repaid. Unlike in other countries, tenants do not experience any reduction in their rent after the loan is repaid (Housing Europe Observatory, 2021[14]). This feature enables for the Fund to pay for a range of activities such as renovations and developments in the existing housing stock. Tenant contributions also cover the operating costs of the Fund, which consist of general administrative expenses (for example, salaries of the staff managing the funds).

Since 2018, the government has reduced financing costs for social housing via the issuance of government-guaranteed mortgage bonds. State support for housing is allocated to tenants in all types of rental housing in Denmark and consist of individual allowances, in the form of a housing benefit scheme (boligydelse) and a rent rebate scheme (boligsikring). These allowances are funded by municipalities, which in turn are refunded to a large extent by the national government. The size of the housing benefit depends on the rent level (excluding costs such as electricity, water and heating costs), the size of the rental dwelling, the number of children and adults in the household, the income and assets of the tenants, and, whether the tenant is elderly and/or person with disabilities. Each housing organisation contributes to and can borrow from the Fund (OECD, 2020[13]).

The development of a fiscal master plan, agreed with municipalities, is the prerequisite to access support from the Fund. Every four years, a housing agreement negotiated in Parliament determines how much the Fund can finance, setting the general framework within which the Fund operates (OECD, 2020[13]).

Management and monitoring


The National Building Fund is managed by a board of nine members, including representatives from housing organisations, tenants and the two largest municipalities in Denmark (Copenhagen and Aarhus). The budget of the Fund must be approved by the Housing Minister (Housing Europe, 2021[9]). The Fund has an independent administration, which is administered by a Secretariat. The Fund is structured into three departments: i) Special Operating Aid Department; ii) Administration Department; iii) Analysis Department.

The type of activities supported by the Fund include renovations, development and investment in the existing residential areas. The wide range of activities includes improvements of both inside and outdoor areas, modernisation of dwellings to improve access for elderly and disabled people, and energy improvements. The fund is also able to finance the costs of demolition where required, and to support infrastructure investments. The Fund also supports the development of social master plans that are co-financed with municipalities to support interventions linked to security and crime prevention, well-being, education and employment, and parental support.

The following examples illustrate the range of activities funded by the Fund:

  • Extensive demolition and renovation in Copenhagen: Demolition of a largely vacant shopping centre to provide space for housing and a large green public square that will benefit the area’s residents.

  • Increased security in the residential area Rosenhøj in Viby J: Enhanced security through better lighting and social activities to create a sense of community and shared responsibility among residents in the area.

  • Energy efficiency renovations in Albertslund South: Holistic renovation through a rethinking of efforts to reduce energy costs and other efforts to improve the comfort of homes.

  • Protecting cultural heritage in Randers: Balancing renewal and preservation of post-war constructions while increasing accessibility and apartment size.


Non-profit housing associations are independent entities that fall under municipal supervision. Municipalities have oversight responsibility over housing associations’ spending and budgets. As a result, housing providers and local governments closely collaborate with each other. Indeed, it is the responsibility of each municipality in Denmark to assess the need for new housing construction within their jurisdiction. This means that each municipality decides when to construct new non-profit housing and what type of housing it should be (Housing Europe Observatory, 2021[14]).

Social housing is strictly regulated in Denmark, as housing organisations must meet a range of legal obligations. There are also requirements to maintain administrative costs at the lowest possible rate, while preserving the interests of tenants. In addition to the general auditing of their accounts, housing organisations are subject to special rules on self-monitoring and administrative review. The auditor of the housing organisation checks that housing associations have fulfilled these special obligations. Accounting records are submitted annually for examination by the supervisory local authority (Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, 2020[15]).

In addition, to protect tenants’ rights, tenants’ boards of appeal were introduced in the Social Renting Act of 1998 to resolve disputes between tenants and housing associations. The two most frequent types of dispute occur in relation to maintenance and repair activities in connection with vacating a residence and house-rule violations.

In terms of monitoring the Fund’s impact, the Secretariat of the Fund collects various types of data on the social housing sector and social housing tenants. Based on these data, the National Building Fund has developed various IT-tools that make it easier to benchmark housing organisations.

In particular, the Fund collects all financial statements by entities in social housing. These are universally available on the Fund’s website, together with various raw averages and benchmark values on individual accounts. Economists in the Fund use these data to create statistical publications, for example on individual expense accounts. In addition, the Fund maintains a rental database, detailing the rent (and composition hereof) of every social housing unit in Denmark. This is used, inter alia, to monitor rent levels.

Finally, the Fund has access to Statistics Denmark’s detailed databases, where economists monitor the tenants in the sector – e.g. employment levels, education, income. Data for the larger associations are available on the Fund’s website for selected individuals in the public housing sector, such as municipalities.

The Netherlands records the one of the largest shares of tenant households in the OECD (over 40% of all households), and the second-largest share of owners with a mortgage (49%), compared to just over 9% of outright homeowners in 2020. Investment in owner-occupied housing enjoys favourable tax treatment compared to non-housing investments and rental housing.4 Homeowners can deduct mortgage interest payments from their personal income tax liabilities at a rate of 43% in 2021 (Dutch Tax and Customs Administration, 2021[16]). Indeed, despite income uncertainties that have resulted during the COVID-19 crisis, household demand for owner-occupied dwellings remains high, supported in part by low mortgage interest rates and favourable tax conditions for home ownership (OECD, 2021[17]).

Real house prices recorded a slowdown after the Global Financial Crisis, yet have increased again since 2014 (Figure 6.5), with accelerated growth since the onset of the pandemic. The level of housing investment increased in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, but may be affected by the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 crisis (OECD, 2021[17]).

In terms of housing quality, the Netherlands has a relatively low rate of overcrowding and does not register a share of households with “severely deprived” housing conditions, even among the bottom quintile. On the other hand, just over a quarter of low-income tenants spend over 40% of their disposable income on rent, a measure of housing cost overburden. This proportion is high, but nevertheless below the OECD average (36%), given the large stock of social housing (OECD, 2022[1]).

Institutional set-up

In the Netherlands, the share of social housing (including private rentals provided at below-market rent and rent-capped units provided by housing associations) is the largest among OECD countries (34% of the total housing stock in 2020) above). Social housing is largely supplied by non-profit housing associations. Housing associations have access to a guarantee fund (WSW) that backs the largest share of outstanding capital market loans. In 2018, nearly 70% of rental dwellings in the Netherlands were owned by housing associations, of which more than 90% were considered social housing units. Further, estimates indicate that in 2019 approximately 634 000 rental dwellings offered by private entities fell below the maximum monthly rent level established for residents of social housing (EUR 763.47 monthly rent in 2022). Less than half of the population is eligible for social housing, and tenants of social housing units are also entitled to rental benefits (OECD, 2022[1]).

The Netherland has a long history of subsidised housing provided by non-governmental housing associations. Social housing associations were established by private organisations in the 19th century to provide housing for industry workers on a non-profit basis. Over the course of the 20th century, many municipal housing companies began to deliver social rental housing, facilitated by the introduction of the Housing Act in 1901 (Jong, 2013[18]). This law allowed the central government to grant subsidies for the construction of social rented housing. After World War II, housing associations, with the support of government subsidies, helped to address the massive housing shortage. At its peak in the early 1990s, social housing in the Netherlands represented 44% of the housing stock (Boelhouwer, 2013[19]). Over time, the shortage of social dwellings has decreased, reducing the need for public sector intervention (Salvi del Pero et al., 2016[20]).

Following a series of reforms in the early 1990s, housing associations that operate social housing have become independent organisations, which – conditional on prior approval by public authorities – can take on private commercial activities to raise private capital to complement public funding. In practice, housing associations became financially independent: their debts to the State were written off and future government subsidies were abolished.

To date, Dutch housing associations manage 2.3 million rental homes (which are home to around 4 million residents), accounting for approximately 29% of the total Dutch housing stock (2021). Dutch housing associations have a specific legal form: they are private, non-profit enterprises that pursue social goals within a strict framework of national laws and regulations. Housing associations are obliged to reinvest profits/reserves in social housing and to manage their housing stock.

The institutional features and legal framework of housing associations are regulated by the new Housing Act (Nieuwe Woningwet) approved in 2015, which defines the core tasks and activities of housing associations. Responding to concerns from the European Commission, the Act marks a clear distinction between housing associations’ social and commercial activities. Concretely, the activities of housing associations that qualify as Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI) are eligible for state aid; they can conduct activities in the commercial sector (non-SGEI) only under very strict preconditions set out by the national government. Indeed, commercial activities must be undertaken under market conditions, and new commercial activities are only allowed after a strict market test. Smaller housing associations, with an annual turnover below EUR 30 million, have lighter requirements. The Act also introduced stricter rules for the governance and supervision of the social housing sector, through the establishment of a new housing authority (AW), to address concerns over incidents of financial mismanagement in the sector.

The tasks and operating conditions of housing associations are outlined in the Social Rented Sector Management Order (known by its Dutch abbreviation, BBSH).

The BBSH defines the following duties for housing associations:

  • to house people who are not able to find an appropriate dwelling themselves;

  • to maintain decent quality dwellings;

  • to consult with tenants;

  • to run their financial affairs responsibly;

  • to contribute to a liveable neighbourhood; and

  • to provide housing to elderly and those with special needs.

  • In exchange for performing these duties, housing associations enjoy the following advantages:

    • They can have their loans guaranteed by the Social House-building Guarantee Fund (WSW); and

    • They can purchase council land at reduced prices for the purpose of building social housing.

In addition to housing associations, several key actors influence the housing sector in the Netherlands:

  • Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Housing Department: responsible for overall housing policy making; creating an enabling environment for housing and construction; indicating social housing priorities for all actors in the housing sector by consulting with key stakeholders; establishing subsidies and ceilings of rent increases; and supporting and monitoring housing market performance. The ministry is also responsible for defining the legal framework conditions for the affordable and social housing sector, establishing the rules for, inter alia, rent policy, rent allowances, and for the backstop agreement with WSW.

  • Aedes: sector association of most Dutch housing associations; acts as a platform for its members to safeguard their interests, and as an employer organisation.

  • Municipalities: responsible for land policy and planning, within the boundaries that are set at national and provincial level. They regulate or deregulate land use and zoning. Since 2015, social housing associations are required to engage in annual agreements with municipalities and representatives of their tenants on issues, such as new construction, investments in sustainability and rent price policy (e.g. rent increases). They are also responsible for the backstop agreement with the ministry.

  • Social Housing Guarantee Fund (Waarborgfonds Sociale Woningbouw – WSW): ensures favourable financing for housing associations at the lowest possible cost, in part by guaranteeing loans and assessing and managing risks. WSW deals with guarantee issues, sets guarantee ceilings, assesses risks at association and portfolio level. WSW holds two triple-A ratings – equal to the Dutch State.

  • The Housing Associations Authority (Autoriteit woningcorporaties, AW): acts as the supervisory body of housing associations and oversees their activities, governance and financial management. Additionally, AW has a legal task as supervisor of WSW. The AW is part of the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate in the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Despite this positioning, the AW carries out its supervisory tasks on behalf of the Minister for Public Housing and Spatial Planning.

  • BNG bank, one of the two public sector banks in the Netherlands, provides funding to the public sector, including municipal authorities, housing associations and healthcare and educational institutions, with the aim to maximise social impact. BNG Bank holds three Triple-A ratings – equal to the Dutch State. Despite the guarantees (WSW), banks fulfil independent credit risk monitoring.

  • Tenant organisations advocate on behalf of tenants on various topics of interest, including housing quality, availability affordability, as well as corporate responsibility for social housing associations.

Funding resources and specifications of the financing mechanism

To guarantee the continuity of the housing associations’ activities, a specific financial structure was created and has continued to evolve over time. Since 1995, housing associations have become financially independent and no longer receive government subsidies. They are currently funded by revenue from the lease and sale of properties, supported by prudent financial management.

Investments are financed by housing organisations’ own equity and bank loans. The collective assets of all housing associations are used as collateral for financers through the sectoral guarantee fund (WSW), which also assesses and manages risks. Ultimately, bank loans are secured by the Dutch State and municipalities, which act as potential guarantors of last resort. This results in more favourable financing terms as well as counter-cyclical investments, without any direct public subsidies for new investments.

The goal of the Dutch social housing system is to ensure sufficient investments in housing on a long-term and sustainable basis. The social housing sector is a closed system, in which all revenues must be reinvested and used for housing and related social purposes. Essentially, the system of social housing associations function a sort of revolving fund, where they act as independent bodies in an environment of guaranteed capital market loans and rent-price regulation.

In particular, registered social housing associations can benefit from a multi-level security system. An important security instrument in the system is the Social House-building Guarantee Fund (WSW) (Box A A.1). This was set up in 1983 to cover the financing needs of the associations and established through the guarantee fees that the organisations are obliged to pay when contracting a loan with the WSW guarantee. It provides housing associations with guarantees to finance new housing construction, home improvement and the acquisition of dwellings, nursing and retirement homes. Housing associations that wish to use facilities of the WSW must register with the fund. In order to approve the registration of a housing association, the WSW evaluates its financial position (prior to 2007, the evaluation was based only on the assets; after 2007, it is based on assets and cash flow).

WSW guarantees the loans of housing associations with its capital assets created by capital contribution from the State and the fees of housing associations. The fee depends on the level of capital assets of WSW. The annual fee was 0.06% in 2021 and has maximum limit of 0.34% gross before tax (net 0.25%). There is no standard maturity for the loans, the only criterion is that it must be in the range from 2-50 years. WSW receives high ratings from rating agencies, thus enabling housing associations to borrow from banks on favourable terms. Taking a loan through WSW guarantees an interest rate, which is about 0.74% lower than without WSW intervention. This is mostly because it is backed by the State and municipalities.

Social housing associations are not obliged to take their loans through the WSW, and there are 6 housing agencies that do not use the WSW guarantee. If they have enough capital, they can also manage with internal financing. In addition, they can also take on loans from the capital market, which may be guaranteed by local authorities (municipality guarantee), or the municipality can lend the money itself. Municipalities and the Central Government act as last guarantor with interest-free loans in case the sector can no longer overcome its financial problems and the WSW’s guarantee capital is almost exhausted.

In terms of criteria and requirements for housing that receives WSW guarantees, there are no limits on the size of dwellings. However, criteria to determine tenant eligibility and allocate units apply. Housing associations are obliged to allocate vacant social housing to their target groups at a below-market rent price under the following specifications:

  • As of 2023, housing associations must lease 85% of their vacant social housing to households with an income of up to EUR 44 035 for single-person households and EUR 48 625 for multi-person households (according to 2023 income thresholds).

  • A maximum of 15% of vacant social housing may be let to people with an income above those thresholds if there are performance agreements in place among the local parties; if no such agreements are in place, the maximum is 7.5% of vacant dwellings. Household income ceilings are adjusted annually (Indexation only).

  • Social dwellings are primarily allocated through waiting lists in combination with choice-based letting (CBL) systems (Czischke, 2018[21]). Choice-based letting systems enable eligible households to choose social dwellings that meet their needs, based on a public listing of available vacancies; the dwelling is let to the house seeker with the longest waiting time. The waiting list and choice-based letting systems are managed by the housing associations or by parties who manage this on their behalf. An exception is for vulnerable groups (people with disabilities, disadvantaged groups, the homeless or refugees), who may be considered as priority cases if they meet the criteria captured in the local housing regulation. These regulations are made by municipalities.

To prevent WSW resorting to its guarantee, the system has a number of buffers and safety nets. This includes a minimum risk capital for WSW and a capital commitment of housing associations (the obligo). The capital commitment is an important part of the guarantee system and the security structure. Each housing association is obliged to pay up to 2.6% of the value of outstanding guaranteed debt if WSW’s capital is insufficient to pay guarantee claims. In addition, WSW has the option to call on 0.25% of the total guaranteed debt on an annual basis, as a measure to maintain the required level of its own risk capital. In 2021, WSW for the first time called 0.06% of annual obligo to raise the risk capital to the minimum required risk capital. This call was needed due to the annual outflow for obligations resulting from two old defaults. The final safety net is the ultimate guarantee (back stop) of the government; if the obligo is called and the WSW capital still is insufficient, the government will provide WSW unlimited interest-free loans. Half of these loans will be provided by the State and half by municipalities. WSW also establishes securities (the possibility to settle a mortgage) on the assets of housing associations.

This guarantee had been under discussion between the Dutch Government and the European Commission, with particular reference to the distorting effects of State Aid to housing associations. The Commission published a decision on the conditions for State Aid to Dutch housing associations in 2009 (final decision C(2009) 9963). Following extensive consultations with the Commission and within the Netherlands, the Dutch Government agreed to some changes in the social housing system that aim to level the playing field between social and commercial housing providers. As a result, the use of State Aid is now restricted to activities which are labelled as “Services of General Economic Interest” (SGEI). The Commission also required reducing the income ceiling for social housing to remain SGEIs and eligible for State Aid. In addition to WSW guarantees, housing associations also benefit from the right to borrow from the Dutch Municipality Bank (Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten – BNG), a special-purpose public bank with a very high credit rating. Only public bodies, mainly municipalities, and housing associations can borrow from the BNG.

Management and monitoring

The Dutch management and monitoring system for social and affordable housing has evolved significantly over time.

In terms of type of activities financed, these include new housing construction, maintenance, and the acquisition of dwellings, nursing and retirement homes. The scope of activities of housing associations has expanded over time and is now relatively broad. Housing associations also contribute to the quality of life in the immediate neighbourhood of their real estate for the benefit of their tenants. They are involved in keeping communities liveable and safe, and helping to prevent anti-social behaviour, although this remains the essential role of the local government.

The financial management of housing associations was scrutinised as part of a parliamentary inquiry in October 2014. The key conclusions of the Inquiry Committee (Staten-Generaal, 2014[22]) highlighted issues of operational and financial mismanagement of housing associations; failing public supervision by the public supervisor of financial affairs at the time (CFV), and absence of political guidance and supervision, driven in part by an overreliance on the self-regulatory capacity of the sector. For example, cases of mismanagement, fraud and corruption included irresponsible speculating with financial products, a large number of cases of self-enrichment, providing very high salaries to the directors of housing associations or investing in commercial projects. During the 1993-2013 period, the sector was affected by frequent changes in the policy eco-system: 12 different ministers and deputy-ministers were in charge of housing policy and the Housing Act was amended 78 times on 59 occasions (Salvi del Pero et al., 2016[20]).

In order to address these issues and supervise the tasks of all housing associations, the new 2015 Housing Act established a supervisory body, the Housing Association Authority (AW). The AW acts as the supervisory body on the governance and integrity of housing associations, as well as their financial management. The AW also monitors the lawfulness of action by housing associations. In addition, the AW is responsible for the supervision of WSW. The AW can impose sanctions on housing associations, such as a financial penalties or the appointment of a supervisor. Most of the time, the AW uses milder interventions, which match the intended effect and the seriousness of the situation. It also reports on the financial situation of the sector as a whole and the public housing performance of the sector.

Tenants can submit complaints to their housing association’s complaints committee or to the Rent Tribunal (huurcommissie), which is an agency that helps to solve housing disputes. Filing a complaint has a cost of EUR 450 for a company or EUR 25 for a tenant.  Complaints may relate to maintenance, service charges, rent or nuisances.

In addition, as part of the new management and monitoring system and in accordance with the 2015 Housing Act, each year housing associations are obliged to produce an annual report. Under the new regulations on financial reporting, housing associations must determine the value of their property on the basis of market value (rather than assuming that they will be able to obtain the complete benefit from the profit’s initial earning potential (i.e. going-concern value), which was previously more common practice for the sector). This accounts for the entire portfolio of the housing association. This change in financial reporting is intended to facilitate greater transparency in the market and more market knowledge within housing associations.

The Slovenian housing market is characterised by a large share of homeowners, with three in four people owning the homes they occupy. Overall, just over 64% of households own their homes outright, while around 10% own their homes with a mortgage (2020) above). Social rental housing accounts for just under 5% of all dwellings, which is close to the EU average above (OECD, 2022[1]).

The share of low-income households who are overburdened by housing costs remains relatively low in Slovenia, compared to other OECD countries. Indeed, in 2020, around 14% of Slovenian tenant households in the bottom quintile of the income distribution spent over 40% of their disposable income on housing costs, compared to an OECD average of around 29% (OECD, 2022[1]). Moreover, the share of household consumption expenditure on housing and utility costs in Slovenia has remained stable since 1995, at around 19% of total household consumption expenditure (OECD, 2022[1]). Real house prices have been on the rise since around 2014, rising at a faster pace than the OECD and EU averages in recent years, up until around the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Real house prices have recorded a sharp drop in the second half of 2022 (Figure A A.6).

Though the housing stock in Slovenia is generally of good quality, efforts to increase energy efficiency, along with seismic and fire upgrades, of ageing buildings are necessary. Less than 9% of Slovenian households lived in overcrowded homes in 2020, which is below the OECD (11.2%) and EU (12.8%) averages (OECD, 2022[1]). Nearly all Slovenian households live in housing with basic facilities: less than 1% poor households live in a dwelling without an indoor flushing toilet, and only 0.12 of households in the bottom quintile are considered to live in “severely deprived” housing conditions (OECD, 2022[1]). However, deep renovation efforts to improve energy efficiency are needed. Over 40% of single-apartment buildings are classified in energy classes F and G; recent assessments also point to the need for energy, fire and seismic upgrades in many multi-apartment buildings (three-quarters of which were built before 1990) (Republic of Slovenia, 2021[23]).

Nevertheless, there is an important mismatch in the supply and demand for affordable apartments. Rural areas record a large share of vacant dwellings, where around 18% of all dwellings were vacant in 2018 (Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, 2022[24]). At the same time, applicants for social housing are faced with long waiting times in large cities (up to four years in the city of Ljubljana) and metropolitan areas (Mežnar and Petrović, 2013[25]). The Fund conducted a survey in 2020-21, which identified the need for 9 668 additional public rental apartments across Slovenia. The biggest shortages of public rental apartments are in the city of Ljubljana and in the Central (Osrednjeslovenska) statistical region (HFRS, 2021[26]).

Institutional set-up

The Housing Fund of the Republic of Slovenia (HFRS) is a public financial and real estate fund, established to finance and implement the National Housing Programme. The housing policy builds on three main pillars (ECSO, 2019[27]):

  • The National Housing Programme (Nacionalni Stanovanjski Program), which defines the government goals and planning;

  • The National Housing Fund (Stanovanjski Sklad Republike Slovenije), which implements the National Housing Programme and funds investment projects; and

  • The National Housing Act (Stanovanjski zakon, SZ), which since 2003 provides a legal framework for the Housing Programme and Fund, supporting greater efficiency in the provision and management of the housing stock.

The first National Housing Programme (2000-09) was launched with the objective of boosting Slovenia’s capacity to meet national social housing needs and improve the overall housing supply. The first National Housing Programme included quantitative targets (e.g. to supply 10 000 new dwellings per year by 2008-09), but these objectives were only partially achieved. (ECSO, 2019[27]) (Mežnar and Petrović, 2013[25]). The current National Housing Programme (2015-25) focuses on four main goals: a balanced supply of adequate housing; easier access to housing; better quality and more functional apartments; and increased housing mobility for the population.

As an institution, the Housing Fund dates to the Housing Act in 1991, when it was established as a public fund with the purpose of financing the National Housing Programme and encouraging housing construction and the renovation and maintenance of apartments and residential buildings (HFRS, 2021[26]). A Resolution on the National Housing Programme for the period from 2015 to 2025 (ReNSP15-25) adopted in 2015, defined the National Housing Fund as the main state authority for the implementation of the National Housing Programme, in collaboration with other bodies and agencies across government at national and local level (such as municipalities).

The Fund is a legal entity under public law with the rights, obligations and responsibilities determined by the 2008 Public Funds Act and the 2003 Housing Act (and subsequent amendments) (Štritof-Brus, 2020[28]). It is the only state-owned public housing fund in Slovenia, covering the whole territory. While the Fund operates within the framework of the state, it is nonetheless a separate legal entity and financially independent, acquiring and managing long-term capital investments for its own purposes. The Fund is headquartered in the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana and has 45 employees as of April 2022.

The Fund primarily operates along two dimensions (Housing Fund of the Repbulic of Slovenia, 2018[29]):  

  • Programmes to provide public rental apartments for local communities;5 and

  • Programmes of rental of own and other public rental apartments for different population groups. Since 2018, HFRS does not sell apartments that it builds to final buyers, but it includes them in its renting calls for different priority groups.

Within this framework, the Fund’s activities include:

  • providing long-term loans with favourable interest rates to legal entities (including both public and private entities, but (since 2018) no longer includes individuals) for i) the acquisition of non-profit rental housing, ii) the purchase of apartments and residential buildings; or iii) the maintenance and reconstruction of apartments and residential buildings. Similar to banking practices, the loan can be insured by a mortgage, guarantors, or an insurance company;

  • investing in housing construction and land for development (own building projects for the construction of non-profit rental housing units and accommodation, projects with municipalities and local housing funds, non-profit housing organisations). The Fund is involved in the purchase and renovation of new housing units and accommodation for non-profit renting, and for the construction, restauration and renovation of new sheltered apartments, houses for the elderly and day care centres for the elderly. Since 1991, the Fund has contributed to the development of over 7 000 dwellings (including rental and owner-occupied dwellings) and currently manages over 4 716 of its own rental apartments HFRS’s housing units are located in 118 (of the 212) municipalities in 12 regions; the Fund also co-operates with other local communities (128 overall), in preparation of future housing development or financing. Currently, HFRS also manages 40 housing units owned by the State, of which 8 are to be transferred to municipalities;

  • operating in real estate in order to ensure the public interest; for example, in 1993 the HFRS bought an apartment in Ljubljana which has subsequently been rented to a humanitarian organisation for children with cancer;

  • providing financial incentives for long-term housing savings, in particular savings deposits for individuals. This is also linked to the execution of the National Housing Savings Scheme (the NHSS), which was passed by the government in 1999 and represented a vehicle for long-term savings for housing;

  • engaging in pilot and development projects (e.g. for young and elderly individuals, development and research projects at national and EU level). For example, in 2006 a new type of subsidy was introduced, which was intended to help young families purchase, build, renovate or change of the use of existing buildings. More recently, the Fund has built a Nearly Zero-Energy Building (Model house F3) in Ljubljana and sold almost all the housing units in the market; and

  • performing other tasks to implement the National Housing Programme (e.g. savings schemes, legalisation schemes, loans for earthquake zones, co-operation with ministries and partner organisations, knowledge dissemination). For example, since 2022, following Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, HFRS is also engaged in renting apartments to Ukrainian families through the responsible Government Office for the Care and Integration of Migrants.

In all of its activities, the Fund aims to provide access to housing by focusing on the most vulnerable groups, such as young households, families and the elderly. The Fund purchases apartments through publicly announced tenders, and co-finances the provision of public rental housing, together with municipalities, local public housing funds and other applicants. It also invests in housing construction (HFRS, 2021[26]).

Since its founding in 1991, the Fund has established a co-operation with the public sector (including 128 municipalities, and the municipal funds of Ljubljana, Koper and Maribor, as well as other local housing funds and non-profit housing organisations), in addition to the private sector. Key actors in the housing sector in Slovenia include:

  • Since February 2023, the new Ministry of Solidarity-based Future has taken over the responsibility for housing and long-term care for elderly. The Ministry oversees housing policy and is part of the supervisory board of the Housing Fund of the Republic of Slovenia. This was previously the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, which had a dedicated Housing Division. Following recent changes, spatial planning and housing construction is now a responsibility of the so-called Ministry of Natural Resources and Space.

  • Municipalities: Municipalities adopt and implement the municipal housing programme. This includes providing capital for the construction, acquisition and leasing of non-profit and residential buildings devoted to social housing; encouraging owner-occupied and rental housing; providing capital for subsidising non-profit rents. Municipalities finance their own housing programmes. The Housing Act also enables municipalities to establish a public housing fund or budgetary fund to ensure the public interest in housing. There are currently eight municipal housing funds: Nova Gorica, Novo mesto, Ljubljana, Maribor, Murska Sobota, Koper and Ajdovščina.

    • In particular, The Public Housing Fund of Ljubljana oversees the implementation of the national housing programme in the capital city of Ljubljana and primarily provides housing solutions for different groups (e.g. non-profit housing; dwellings for households in urgent need; rental housing; sheltered housing; housing for vulnerable groups, artists and young people).

    • In addition to municipal housing funds, companies owned or partly owned by municipalities operate at the local level to provide specific housing services.

  • Eco-fund (Eko Sklad): Established in 1993, the Slovenian Environmental Public Fund (Eco Fund) is a revolving fund providing financial support to households, companies and municipalities for environmental projects, with a dedicated capital of EUR 125 656 593. This includes the allocation of grants and loans with favourable conditions to private households for residential renovation projects. In the housing sphere, the Eco-Fund supports in particular measures aimed at improving the energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources in residential and municipal buildings, and building Nearly Zero-energy Buildings. Projects related to heating, replacement of pipes and linings, electrical self-sufficiency, housing renovation, water, waste and insulation fall within the scope of the Eco-fund’s activities. From 1 January to 31 December 2019, a total of EUR 62 100 857 in subsidies were allocated by the Eco-fund to various beneficiaries, of which 67% was allocated towards energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in residential buildings and 14% towards investments by municipalities to construct Nearly Zero-energy Buildings. In 2020, subsidies amounted to EUR 67 522 769 and in 2021 to EUR 73 463 182.

HFRS and the Eco-fund collaborate on a project basis and exchange information on EU projects and housing financing opportunities. While both HFRS and the Eco-fund are involved in financing housing renovations, there are important differences between the two:

  • HFRS enables financing for renovations of apartments through two programmes that are financed without State support: the first programme enables co-financing of renovation of apartments and accommodation for non-profit renting (for families, young people, Roma population) and the second one supports co-financing to renovate buildings for sheltered housing, homes for elderly and day care centres for the elderly. Under Article 152 of the Housing Act, HFRS provides possible co-financing for municipalities, public funds, non-profit organisations and some public institutions involved in housing; there are currently no financing calls for private persons.

  • The Eco-fund’s public calls are financed by the State and other means. The Eco-fund provides financing of some building renovation aspects with grants and loans to private persons and private entities.

  • Non-profit housing organisations (in collaboration with municipalities) manage and lease non-profit housing, and determine and manage land use.

  • NGOs and research institutions (e.g. Zadrugator, Inštitut za študije stanovanj in prostora (, Društvo Kralji ulice, Inštitut za politike prostora (Mreža)) are also involved in housing policy, mainly through consultations during the preparation of policies and legislation. They also help to identify and introduce examples of good practice to improve housing supply, and especially to promote mobility and different dwelling patterns (ECSO, 2019[27]). For example, since 2018, HFRS co-operates with Društvo Kralji ulice on a project for improving living and communications with Roma people on housing locations.

Funding resources and financing mechanisms

As of 31 December 2022, the balance of HRFS funds amounted over EUR 503 million, with a 3% increase in assets relative to the previous year. Revenues for the HFRS amounted to over EUR 14 million in 2022. As such, the Fund is one of the biggest financial institutions and the most important housing institution in Slovenia.

The Fund supports housing investment by providing soft loans, co-financing, allocating equity and providing knowledge support. The sources of funding for the HFRS are outlined in Article 147 of the Housing Act and Article 37 of the Public Funds Act, and may include (Štritof-Brus, 2020[28]):

  • The State budget. However, in practice, there has been no direct provision of public financial contributions to the Fund since 1991. Only a few recapitalisations in assets or finances have been processed in almost 30 years of the Fund’s operation.

  • Capital generated from the sale of social housing. This was the type of founding capital provided by the State at the beginning of the fund’s operations, as financial means for the HFRS were provided from the profit earned through the privatisation process, in addition to some budgetary means. In particular, in line with the Housing Act, as part of the privatisation process in the 1990s, the fund received 20% of the revenue from the sale of the socially rented dwellings (Hegedüs, 2006[30]).

  • Grants from domestic and foreign legal and natural persons. These include, for instance, EU projects such as Horizon 2020-CoNZEBs or the more recent SUPER-I project, funded by the EU, which aims to promote energy efficiency in social housing. There have been no permanent sources of grant funding, however. In line with Article 147 of the Housing Act 2003 and subsequent amendments, the Fund can apply to national or international tenders (including European funds) covering the field of its operation that are in line with the objectives of its functioning as set out in its Business Policy; funding is not, however, provided directly or indirectly from European funds through the government.

  • Funds created by issuing the Fund’s securities, which have been issued in three rounds: 1995, 1998 and 2001. In 1995, the NHF issued the first series of housing fund debentures. In the first issue, securities were given to individuals instead of housing loans to be used as a payment for housing. Construction companies were supposed to receive these securities instead of cash when selling housing. The second and third series of debentures followed in 1998 and 2001. They were sold to the public and the income generated was entirely designated for disbursing loans to individuals (Hegedüs, 2006[30])).

  • Revenues generated by disposing of the assets of the Fund or the State in the management of the Fund. This includes revenues linked to the sale of non-business assets, business premises in multi-apartment buildings, and the sale of dwellings older than 60 years, where renovation is not economically feasible.

  • Revenues generated by the Fund’s own operations. These are revenues linked to housing policy implementation through co-financing programmes and to the sale of new apartments to priority groups of the population. This also includes rent from all renting activities.

  • The fund may take out long-term domestic and foreign loans or issue guarantees. Since June 2021, HFRS can acquire debt up to 50%. of the dedicated assets and capital (currently up to EUR 210 million); this is comprised of 10% under the Public Funds Law and 40% under the Housing Act. For example, in 2019, the Fund took credit at CEB for EUR 50 million, for the purpose of a project of 800 apartments. Similarly, in 2021, the Fund borrowed an additional EUR 70 million from CEB for 10 projects in 7 regions, through which it expects to build 912 housing units (of which 58 serviced apartments for elderly).

In addition, as part of its financial investments (capital investments in subsidiaries), HFRS owns 100% of the ownership share in Stanovanjsko podjetje d.o.o., a building management company that owns 24 housing units and manages over 11 000 housing units; and Spekter d.o.o., a real estate and technical consulting company, which owns 2050 and manages over 4 000 units (HFRS, 2021[26]). These two subsidiaries are real-estate management companies that also assist private apartment owners in their applications to the Eco-fund.

The Fund is the main implementing authority of the National Housing Programme (ECSO, 2019[27]). HFRS and the municipal Housing Funds share the task of implementing most of the programme. However, the budget does not determine how these measures are to be implemented, and no additional budget has been allocated to cover the other tasks assigned to these organisations (ECSO, 2019[27]).

Management and monitoring


The Housing Fund is managed and represented by the director, who is appointed by the supervisory board for a term of four years. The director oversees the work of four divisions, namely i) the investment division, ii) the housing division, iii) the finance division, and iv) the legal division. The Housing Fund is tasked with carrying out the Resolution on the National Housing Programme 2015-25 (ReNSP15-25). It is an indirect budget user in the Ministry for Solidarity-based Future.

As of December 2022, the HFRS has built over 7 500 dwellings (both owner-occupied and rental units) and manages 4 888 of its own rental apartments for the needs of non-profit and market rent with affordable rent throughout Slovenia, as well as an additional 40 rental apartments. In addition, the Fund’s subsidiaries (Spekter, d.o.o. and Stanovanjsko podjetje, d.o.o.) manage 2077 apartments in accordance with the Fund’s guidelines. Further, over 2 500 housing units have been sold at favourable prices on the market. The National Housing Programme also aims to expand the housing supply that is owned and managed by the Fund through acquisition and construction (HFRS, 2021[26]).

The maximum rent levels for non-profit dwellings are determined by legislation and differ across apartment type, amenities and location. This maximum rent price is calculated using a formula based on the value of the apartment, along with indicators relating to the quality and attractiveness of the dwelling. The Fund first assesses the value of the apartment according to the Criteria for Determining the Value of Dwellings and Residential Buildings, published by the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning. The valuation incorporates information on usable living space and the technical characteristics of the dwelling and the quality of the building.6 In addition, the non-profit rent calculation also takes into account a location factor, which incorporates the size of the city, the distance of the apartment from the city centre, infrastructure around the dwelling, transport links, distance from emission sources, proximity to green areas, cultural and infrastructural facilities, noise, and attractiveness of the location. This yields a number of points for each dwelling, which is multiplied by a factor (of EUR 3.5 per point) that determines the maximum allowable rent for each dwelling. This factor is adjusted annually to correct for changes in the consumer price index. Tenants and owners have the right to request from the municipality a re-calculation of the value of the apartment and thus the maximum allowable rent amount, according to Article 120 of the Housing Act.

Separately, the Ministry of Solidarity-based Future provides a subsidy for households living in non-profit rental apartments to make rents more affordable. This subsidy is calculated using the difference between the payable rent and the minimum income threshold. The owner is obligated to reduce the monthly rent by the calculated subsidy amount for eligible tenants and is reimbursed by the municipality.

A proposed reform to this model would transition to a system of cost-rent with a means-tested housing allowance for low-income households to offset the increase in rents. The reform would also aim to expand the affordable housing stock and importantly, abolish the requirement of permanent residence in the municipality to be eligible for below-market rent apartments. The desired outcome of this proposal is to improve access to affordable housing, in particular for young people and young families and increase mobility (Government of the Republic of Slovenia, 2015[31]).

Non-profit rental units are allocated according to priority lists and conditions stipulated in the rules on the allocation of non-profit apartments. HFRS rents its own rental units at non-profit rents in collaboration with municipalities, local funds or non-profit organisations providing or managing the dwelling. Preference is given to families with children, young families, people living with disabilities, people with longer working history, people who are experiencing homelessness and applicants who are considered important for the local community. Private owners of dwellings who rent out their apartments as subsidised-housing can specify which group(s) included in the aforementioned list they would like to prioritise to live in their dwelling.

Apartment owners are responsible for covering maintenance costs and ensuring unchanged market value of the apartment. Owners are also required to insure apartments and shared areas of multi-apartment buildings. Maintenance and insurance costs may not exceed 1.11% of the apartment value for apartments built less than 60 years ago, or 1.81% of the value of the apartment for apartments built more than 60 years ago.


The Housing Fund of the Republic of Slovenia is an independent legal entity, though it is state-owned and co-operates with ministries and municipal governments. The Director of the Housing Fund reports to the Supervisory Board, which consists of five members appointed by the relevant ministries. The term of office of Supervisory Board members is four years with the possibility of reappointment, as defined in Article 15 of the Housing Act (Government of the Republic of Slovenia, 2015[31]). The board consists of:

  • Two representatives from the ministry, who are experts in the field of housing or spatial planning, spatial planning and construction of residential buildings;

  • A representative of the ministry responsible for finance, who must be an expert in the accounting or financial field;

  • One member representing the beneficiaries or users of the Fund; and

  • One legal professional who is an expert in the real estate sector.

The Ministry of Solidarity-based Future is responsible for the preparation of implementation reports of the National Housing Programme that cover i) measurability, ii) accessibility, iii) objectivity, iv) clarity, and v) reliability.

The Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia is responsible for the collection and publication of data on 18 indicators on housing used to monitor the activities and progress made by the Fund. A list can be found in Annex 2 of ReNSP15-25 (Government of the Republic of Slovenia, 2015[31]). Some of these indicators include:

  • Total number of dwellings (nationwide);

  • Number of new publicly owned dwellings completed by year;

  • Value of work carried out on residential building renovation;

  • Funds earmarked for reconstruction and investment in maintenance of buildings;

  • Housing density;

  • Share of population living in overcrowded dwellings;

  • Overall number of publicly owned rental dwellings;

  • Ownership structures of occupied dwellings;

  • Share of rental dwellings of occupied dwellings;

  • Residential mobility rate;

  • Household expenditure on housing rents, water and energy;

  • Percentage of people living in dwellings with at least one of the following problems: half-roof; damp walls; damp foundations or floors; cracked window frames; or cracked windows; and

  • Number of dwellings built by housing co-operatives.

For the implementation of the current housing strategy (ReNSP15-25) the government has indicated that as the main actor in the public housing sector, the Fund should co-operate more with policy makers and other implementing authorities like municipalities. Further, a more detailed monitoring system is planned, intended to examine the implementation of ReNSP15-25.


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← 1. LPHA own dwellings, but also manage dwellings that they do not own, for which owners pay service charges. The owners could collectively decide to change the housing management.

← 2. Net rent does not include service charges (e.g. rubbish collection, cleaning of building, etc.), which may vary over time.

← 3. Notice that all calculations are performed at a building block level, which means that every individual building block has to be financially viable.

← 4. Individuals who live in their own home pay income tax on imputed rents (0.5% of the market value), representing a maximum 0.25% marginal tax on housing wealth, significantly lower than (imputed) capital income taxation on other savings and investments, which in practice amounts to a 1.24% tax on net wealth in the highest tax bracket.

← 5. The term “public rental housing” covers rental housing owned by municipalities, municipal housing funds, housing organisations, or the Housing Fund of the Republic of Slovenia. These forms of public housing are leased to eligible beneficiaries on a non-for-profit basis.

← 6. The Public Housing Fund of the City of Ljubljana exclusively utilises non-profit rent ceilings when providing social housing. Other entities started using cost-of-rent more frequently, which lies in between market and non-profit-rents.

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