Housing has emerged as a key issue of citizen and state concern. Arendt’s “the social question” frames times marked by anxiety and conflict, connecting notions of poverty, precariousness, and social vulnerability. Yet, under threat are not only individuals, but the ”social web,” illustrating loss of faith in traditional public and private institutions. This is comparative analysis of rental housing in two cities: Gothenburg and Vancouver. These urban sites highlight the continuum between state-administered housing and market-driven housing. In each case. citizen faith in the state to ensure realization of a fundamental right is challenged, seeding civic conversations about values, public institutions, urban citizenship and conflict. Notions of state accountability, threats of populism, and the role of participatory democracy frame debates. Each city illustrates this but in different ways, reflecting different and contrasting (yet, converging) orchestration of housing access.