What is social housing

Rent social housing

Rent social housing: Then tenants are entitled to the housing entitlement certificate

In times of rising rent prices and limited living space, people with low incomes in particular have a hard time finding an apartment. In certain cases, however, they are entitled to a housing entitlement certificate and can rent social housing. These requirements must be met for this.

Single parent, ill or not enough money despite work: There are numerous reasons why some people cannot afford the sometimes high rental prices. For many, social housing is the last chance they have to live adequately.

What is a social housing?

Social housing is state-subsidized housing that is explicitly built for people with low incomes such as trainees, pensioners or sick people. The landlord may only demand as much rent as is necessary to cover ongoing expenses such as operating or maintenance costs. In general, one speaks of cost rent.


Social housing, including price-linked housing, are subject to different laws: For apartments that were built before 01.01.2002, the Housing Act and the Housing Contract Act apply. Social housing that was built after 01.01.2002 is subject to the Housing Promotion Act.

The landlord may only increase the rent as soon as the fixed price has dropped, for example because the public building loan has been repaid. Even if the apartment loses its status as a social housing in this case, the landlord must orientate himself on the local comparative rent and may not ask for more.

In general, social housing is only available to tenants who have a housing entitlement certificate, or WBS for short. The legal basis is formed by the Housing Binding Act (WoBindG) and Section 27 Paragraphs 3 to 5 WoFG (Housing Promotion Act).

Income limit: Who is entitled to the housing entitlement certificate

Those whose income does not exceed a certain limit are entitled to social housing. The income limit is §9 according to WoFG for

One person householdTwo-person householdevery additional personper child additionally
12,000 euros18,000 euros4,100 euros500 euro

Depending on the state, city and municipality, there may be differences and special regulations regarding the amount. The income limits of the federal states or state capitals can be found in the respective legal ordinances.

In general, income includes wages, unemployment benefits, sick pay and training grants, BaföG (depending on the federal state and the municipality), daily sickness allowance, Christmas and holiday pay, income from agriculture and forestry and parental allowance (§ 21 WoFG). When determining the annual income, according to §22 (WoFG), the income that can be expected in the twelve months from the month of the application is taken as a basis.

Applicants should contact the relevant authority for more information on income limits. Here you can also find out which exemptions, i.e. income that is not added to income, are possible. These exemptions include, for example, child benefit, child care costs, income taxes, compulsory health insurance contributions or long-term care and pension insurance.


Housing benefit is also not included in income. Read this article to find out who can apply for housing benefit and how it is calculated.

In addition, severely disabled, young married couples or single parents can claim tax exemptions (§24 WoFG). In some municipalities in Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, tenants whose earnings increase and are therefore above the income limit have to pay a faulty occupancy tax. In Hesse, it affects those whose income exceeds the relevant limit by at least 20 percent. The incorrect occupancy tax is calculated from the difference between the currently paid social rent and the local comparative rent.

Housing entitlement certificate: who issues it, how long it is valid and what requirements are necessary

Depending on the federal state, the requirements for receiving a housing entitlement certificate may differ. In general, the applicant must be looking for a place to live, have German citizenship, be a citizen of the European Union or have a residence permit of at least one year. Some cities require, among other things, that the applicant must have lived there for at least two years.

The housing entitlement certificate is usually issued by the housing authority of the city or municipality - an online application is usually also possible. The WBS is valid for one year from the date of issue - but only has to be re-applied for if you move. Those who stay in the same social housing do not need a new WBS every year. The certificate is only valid within the federal state in which it was applied for. If the applicant moves to another federal state, he must apply there again.


In addition to the WBS without urgency, there is also the one with an urgency note. Depending on the city and municipality, there are different levels of urgency with which the living conditions of the applicant are classified. Depending on the urgency, applicants will be given preferential treatment. This is the case, for example, when a tenant is threatened with homelessness.

A distinction must be made between two residential eligibility certificates:

Type A (general housing entitlement certificate): This certificate is given to those whose income does not exceed the specified limit. Housing is awarded directly by the local authority.

Type B (targeted housing entitlement certificate): With this housing eligibility certificate, the authority does not award the apartment, but the apartment hunter can look for a suitable apartment himself. Under certain circumstances, the applicant can rent a social apartment, even if the fixed income limit is exceeded - this can be 40 percent more, but in individual cases also 60 percent . Another difference to type A is that the apartments are usually not brokered by the housing office, but the tenant contacts the landlord directly.


Even with a housing entitlement certificate, there is no legal entitlement to social housing.

The costs for submitting an application vary from municipality to municipality. While some issue these for free, others charge up to 40 euros.

This is how big the apartment can be with a housing entitlement certificate

The size of the apartment depends on how many people or household members will live in it. The principle of appropriateness applies here. In general, only certain people belong to the household. This includes parents and their children, including adoptive children, stepchildren and foster children, spouses, life partners within the meaning of Section 1 of the Civil Partnership Act (LPartG), siblings, parents-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. People such as students who study away from home but still have their center of life in the house hunter's household also belong to the household members.

Depending on the number of household members, an apartment is considered appropriate if either the number of available rooms or the size of the living space is complied with:

Household membersSpacesLiving space up to
1 person 45 m²
2 persons260 m²
3 persons375 m²
4 people490 m²
every additional person+ 1 room+ 15 m²

Depending on the individual case, the issuing authority can approve larger living spaces. Examples of this can be additional space requirements due to a disability or pregnancy.

WBS applicants should submit these documents

The requirements also differ with regard to the documents required, depending on the federal state. Applicants can find out what exactly this is from the relevant contact person or on the website of the relevant authority. To apply for the housing entitlement certificate, the applicant needs, in addition to the application for WBS according to §5 WoBindG / §27 WoFG WBS, an overview of the annual income in the income statement, information on all persons living in the household and possibly partnership declarations as well as a declaration of joint custody Information on particular urgency or severe disability.

In addition to this information, the following documents may also have to be submitted:

  • Certificate of income (completed by the employer)
  • Joint Custody Declaration
  • Last tax assessment
  • Current pension notices
  • Company and company pensions (account statement)
  • Notices of tax-free payments such as unemployment, sickness, parental allowance, housing allowance as well as maintenance allowances, care allowances etc.
  • Apprenticeship contract
  • Proof of maintenance payments
  • Evidence of income from capital assets
  • Proof of registration
  • ID card
  • Birth certificate (s)
  • Mother pass
  • Acknowledgment of paternity
  • marriage certificate
  • Proof of civil partnership
  • Certificate of Residence
  • Certificate of enrollment
  • Disabled pass
  • School certificate

The time it takes to process the application also depends on the authority. While it only takes a few weeks in some communities, it can take a few months in others.

Social housing: rent, rent increase, termination

Since social housing is publicly funded housing, the landlord has to fulfill certain obligations with regard to rent levels and increases. Although the termination hardly differs from normal tenancies, there are still a few exceptions.

Rent amount and increase: this is how high they can be

With a publicly funded apartment, the landlord undertakes to rent it out at a fixed price.

With this so-called cost rent, the landlord should be able to cover his costs. In addition to capital costs such as interest and repayments for building loans, the costs also include management costs, for example for administration, maintenance and depreciation.

A rent increase is only permitted if the costs for management and interest have risen, public subsidies are reduced, the follow-up subsidies are no longer available or because the landlord has carried out the necessary modernization. In order to be prepared for all eventualities, prospective tenants should ask, especially in the case of older houses, to what extent construction measures are planned. If the landlord wants to increase the rent, he must submit a profitability calculation to the competent authority and have the increase approved.

Termination of social housing

In general, the same rules apply to the termination of a social housing as to a normal rental apartment. If the landlord increases the rent, the tenant can terminate the contract no later than the third working day of the month from which he is to pay the higher rent in accordance with Section 10 of the Residential Binding Act. In the event of termination, the rent increase does not apply.

However, there is one special feature. The landlord cancels due to personal use, this is only permissible if he can prove his / her own entitlement to live in addition to his / her own needs. However, the landlord may not give notice of termination if the tenant's income exceeds the income limit over time. However, the landlord may terminate the contract without notice if he unknowingly rents out to a tenant who does not have a residence entitlement certificate.

If you are considering applying for a housing entitlement certificate, you should inform yourself in advance from the relevant office so that you can quickly organize all the necessary documents and submit the application quickly.