Mixed Income Social Housing A Success in Denmark For Many Decades

A four story apartment building seen at twilight
Vårkjærvej 44-46-48 - DSC_1730_1_2_Balancer photo by Lav Ulv is licensed under CC ZERO 1.0
A public housing apartment building in Aarhus, Demark.

There are those who can imagine the benefits of truly affordable housing in a post-Thatcherite1 universe, including affordablehousingaction.org. These hopes come in the certain knowledge that it has been done well elsewhere — government-controlled social rent/public-style housing that accommodates a range of incomes including the lowest.

There are favourite examples of Public Housing success where it works in healthy competition with the free market. Vienna, Austria, and Singapore are two off-quoted examples. However, a number of European countries have had long experience with social housing, and still profit mightily from its use today.

The following article looks at a Danish city’s successful history of public housing, one based on the imperative of serving not only the poorest, but a wide range of incomes. Those higher incomes finance both maintenance of existing housing, as well as development and construction of further housing.

Read more in THE IRISH  TIMES: A Danish city housing model where the residents decide what’s best

Recently Denmark has attracted criticism for its new housing policies that singled out “ghettos” of non-western immigrants in public housing. The above article in the Irish Times uses the term “ghetto” quite casually, to refer to solidly low-income social housing in general as “ghettos.” That would seem to be congruent with an overall housing philosophy that depends on mixed income neighbourhoods, both within social housing, and, as it has been for many years, in a suitable mix with free market housing.

That stands in comparison to America, for example, where “mixed income” is a relatively new philosophy applied to an urban landscape, particularly after many years of racist and economic apartheid, either deliberately or accidentally applied, that has subdivided American communities.

Whatever Denmark’s reasonable economic reasons for managing housing to ensure mixed income communities, the underlying fears that echo from some of their new housing rules2 hint at a nation uncertain about the influx of so many “non-western refugees.”


  1. “Thatcherism,” “small government,” and “neoliberal” all refer to political thought that seeks to minimize the effect of government interference in society. It particularly infected advanced nations with British roots, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
  2. Read more in SCOOP: Ethnic Engineering: Denmark’s Ghetto Policy

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