More than dodgy? Private rural renting as inspiration to (urban) social housing

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In Denmark, the island of Lolland is known as a socioeconomic periphery, characterized by depopulation and decaying houses, and often pointed out as the best bad example of sociodemographic inequality. Within the past decades, Lolland has become a destination for people, who can no longer afford to live in the capital region, and who are in search for a place to make home anew. What allows them to move is a housing infrastructure consisting of available social housing as well as cheap private renting possibilities. The latter often involves houses in poor condition, e.g. inadequate heating and indoor climate, as well as more or less formalized arrangements, that new tenants should be willing to either live with it or fix it themselves. In public discourse this market is often associated with people hoping to “move below the radar of the welfare state”, and/or with dubious landlords, earning money on precarious lives.

While acknowledging the importance of the moral and sociopolitical concerns with these rental practices, this paper aims to move beyond them and pursue the idea, that the private rental market offers a way of living that may also be attractive to the people who by force or by choice find their ways into it. The paper addresses the edges, both of ‘the urban’ and of the social housing estate, as it explores the migration of tenants, from larger cities to smaller urban environments in a Danish rural periphery – as well as different kinds of living, across institutionalized social housing and less formalized private housing. It suggests that this border zone offers a productive perspective on urban social housing, and moreover that the private rental market implies practices of prioritizing, caring, and repairing that may be of inspiration to future forms of social housing.

The paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork among people, who move to Lolland on social benefits, as part of the collaborative research project, Remote Relocations: Work, Precarity and the Inclusion of Newcomers on Lolland, funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date20 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2023
EventModelling Social Housing: The Relational Aesthetics of European Social Housing Estates - Nationalmuseet, København, Denmark
Duration: 20 Apr 202321 Apr 2023


ConferenceModelling Social Housing
Internet address


  • social work and social conditions
  • Migration
  • Socialgeography
  • rural-urban divide


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