HomeLab: Integrating social housing and employment


HomeLab: Integrating social housing and employment

Mismatches Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations Local policies Public-private initiatives
Ownership and tenure

Main objectives of the project

Facing the housing problems also means facing a vulnerability issue. Without giving people the empowerment to maintain themselves, housing will continue to be an issue for those who struggle to get a job or who need social services support. For this reason, HomeLab designed a Social Rental Enterprise model that has been implemented in four Central European countries – Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The model integrates the needs people face in the labour market and in the housing system.
HomeLab is funded under EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).


  • 2019:


  • Metropolitan Research Institute (Városkutatás Kft.)
  • EASI programme
  • Habitat Poland
  • Romodrom
  • Hungarian Charity Service of Malta


Continent: Europe
City: Budapest
Country/Region: Budapest, Hungary


The Social Rental Enterprise (SRE) model builds upon the foundation laid by existing Social Rental Agencies (SRAs) in various EU countries, including Belgium, Ireland, Italy, and France. These SRAs serve as vital mediators between private landlords and individuals facing housing challenges, facilitating affordable rental agreements for low-income tenants while providing assurances to landlords.

Expanding upon this groundwork, the Social Rental Enterprise model recognizes the intrinsic connection between housing and employment issues. It operates on the premise that addressing both concurrently is crucial for empowering individuals to maintain their homes and secure sufficient income. By integrating labor and social services with housing support, the SRE endeavors to break the cycle of poverty and bolster the sustainability of intervention outcomes, aiming to reinforce one another.

The SRE's core assumption is that enabling clients and their families to support themselves is essential for successful integration. By simultaneously addressing labor market and housing integration, the SRE strives to enhance clients' abilities to enter and sustain positions in the housing and labor markets. The provision of additional social services within the SRE framework further enhances clients' prospects for improved stability and security in these realms.

In the realm of housing services, the Social Rental Enterprise (SRE) functions either as the overseer of municipal housing stock, particularly if it owns or operates social housing on behalf of the municipality, or as an intermediary, facilitating agreements between landlords and tenants. As an intermediary, the SRE plays a crucial role in resolving issues such as stock availability, trust concerns, or excessive deposits. It acts as a guarantor for rent payments to landlords and offers affordable solutions to tenants.

Regarding labor services, the SRE operates along two axes: in-country labor mobility and local labor market integration. In regions with high labor demand, whether skilled or unskilled, there is a concerted effort to relocate potential employees from areas with limited job opportunities. This may involve not only interregional mobility but also assisting individuals in moving from remote towns with weak transport links to urban centers with a higher demand for labor. Employment services encompass networking with local employers, assessing human resource needs, and recruiting in areas with an excess labor force but limited job opportunities. Additional services aid in integrating mobile workers into their new environments. This effort necessitates coordination with both employment and social services in regions with weak labor markets. Additionally, employment services extend assistance to the local population.

The target demographic for these services primarily consists of households grappling with housing issues due to unemployment or unfavorable labor market conditions. Within this target group, the SRE prioritizes individuals or households lacking stable housing due to their precarious labor market positions. These individuals receive comprehensive housing and employment services from the SRE to prepare them for participation in available training and employment programs, facilitating their entry into the labor market and providing ongoing mentoring to stabilize their employment situations.

Social services constitute the third component of the SRE. In initiatives like the HomeLab project, social services are partly delivered through personalized case management by social workers and partly through collaboration with national or local institutions. Establishing partnerships with these entities and ensuring that clients receive entitled social benefits are critical tasks for the SRE.

This being said, there is a need to bear in mind that each country applied its own adaptation to the model. For example, Hungary focused on homeless people in Budapest. They, in the framework of HomeLab, provided housing for 20 households, and helped them maintain it through very thorough social work and labour market training. They also implemented the model of HomeLab in Veszprém, where the tourism of the nearby towns is rising the rents for tenants. The pilot is the largest one of HomeLab, involving 75 households, and focusing on different types of vulnerable groups including tenants of the municipal apartments of Veszprém, tenants accumulating arrears, homeless people, people moving into Veszprem in search of job opportunities and finally leaving detention facilites, people having lost the ownership of their apartments as a result of the financial and economic crisis… As for Slovakia, they have selected three microregions with Roma localities (the vast majority being settlements), where the living conditions and basic indicators are similar: most people live in low-standard illegal houses, the unemployment rate is 70% or higher, the acquired level of education is very low and for most of the families the main source of income are state social benefits. Czech Republic approach is based on the concept of help to move the households living in unfavourable housing (legal/illegal hostels, shelters, poor quality housing etc.) to standard housing for affordable price and to help them manage their financial situation by getting employment or other type of legal job. They act on 45 households in total.
The pilots are great examples of how we can handle complex communities with interrelated needs and tackle them with simple housing schemes and constant support, pursuing the empowerment of citizens.