Are housing provision systems in southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece) different from those in northern Europe? Answering this question requires a way of theorizing housing systems, which locates them within their broader societal contexts. After setting out some of the key empirical differences between northern and southern, the paper reanalyses Esping-Andersen's work on welfare regimes and reviews housing-specific work using these ideas as a basis for identifying differences between northern and southern European welfare and housing systems. Three key factors emerge from this analysis: the capacity of civil administration, the linkages between formal and informal segments in the labour market, and the operation of extended familial networks in welfare distribution. On this basis, the paper presents a more institutionally robust analysis of the relationships between welfare and housing provision systems in southern Europe. The conclusions address the problems of using welfare regime theory to analyse housing provision as well as some of the specific housing problems associated with socio-economic change in southern Europe.