This research deals with the public housing production of multi-family dwellings within the framework of the current affordability crisis and the continuous urban exodus among (middle class) households. By means of specific innovative policy programmes within the three foreign cities, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Copenhagen, inspiration is drawn for potential developments in the Brussels public housing sector. The results of the historical analyses and the case study research indicate that the treated 'innovative' housing models have always originated within an incremental and path-dependent process in which established institutions, forms of cooperation and existing urban planning and architectural models played an important role in the search for (typological) renewal. The current urban development projects are therefore characterized by a hybridization of typologies, organizational structures and development processes in which shared spaces occupy an increasingly central place. The trend seems to have set, but the quality varies; the success of the collective housing project can be seen above all in its use and relates to the reciprocal relationship between three basic elements: the design, the organisational structure and the development process. With the path-dependent character of the housing sector in mind, this study therefore argues in favour of a conscious coordination between the basic elements, and in favour of continuous experimentation to meet the current multitude of social needs and challenges.