Social housing vs Private housing (free sector) in the Netherlands

Social housing vs Private housing (free sector) in the Netherlands

Social housing vs Private housing (free sector) in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, housing is divided into two sectors: social housing and the free sector (private housing). It’s important to know the difference because the rules differ for both.

Social housing in the Netherlands

Social housing in the Netherlands is mostly meant for people with lower incomes. The Rent Liberalisation Threshold (Huurliberalisatiegrens) determines whether you are living in a house which falls under social housing. The current threshold (2021) is 752,33 euros. Housing that is not self-contained (such as a room in a house), falls under social housing as well.

The following applies to social housing:

  • Maximum rent, based on a points system.
  • Maximum of annual rent increase (2,4 percent to 5,4 percent for the rent of a self-contained house per July 1, 2021).
  • If you want to be able to apply for social housing with a housing association, your income will be taken into account. Eighty percent of social housing from housing associations will go to people with an income of up to 39.055 euros (2020), and 10 percent will go to people with an income between 39.055 euros and 43.574 euros (2020). The other 10 percent will go to people with a higher income, but only under certain circumstances.
  • Depending on your situation, you can get rent benefit.
  • When you have a dispute with your landlord, you can get help from the Rent Tribunal (Huurcommissie).

Social housing requirements

Most of the houses in the social housing sector belong to housing associations. To be able to apply for social housing with a housing association, you must:

  • Register with the appropriate housing association. There are different ones for different regions.
  • Get a housing permit. If you want to make use of social housing in a specific region, most municipalities require you have a legitimate reason for wanting to live there, for example, work, family or school. This rule differs per municipality.
  • Adhere to the requirements of the housing association (income, family size).
  • Have an income that does not exceed the limit mentioned above.


Note: The income requirement for social housing does not apply to:

  • Full-time students or PhD students who are planning to live with a maximum of one other student.
  • Students from abroad.

Dutch housing points system

To determine the value of the property (and thereby the rent), social housing in the Netherlands uses a points system. Points are awarded for the size of the house, the facilities, and whether the house is self-contained or not. The rent is then based on the number of points the house attains. If you think you are paying too much rent, you can ask the Rent Tribunal (Huurcommissie) to do a rent assessment based on this point system.

Free sector or private housing in the Netherlands

Tenancy contracts in the private or free housing sector have been liberalised. This means that both the tenant and the landlord have more freedom when it comes to the rent and the services provided.

The following applies to free sector housing (private housing) in the Netherlands:

  • No maximum rent.
  • No maximum of annual rent increase.
  • No points system.
  • You are not entitled to rent benefit.
  • You can’t make use of the Rent Tribunal (Huurcommissie) when you have a dispute with your landlord. You may still have your rent assessed by the Rent Tribunal if you have been living in the property for less than 6 months.

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