In the past ten to twenty years, governments in various countries have introduced or reinforced market principles in their housing systems. As a consequence, social landlords have increased opportunities to adopt a more market-oriented approach towards the management of their housing stock. Nevertheless, in many countries government regulations still have a substantial influence on the management of social rented housing. In this paper we analyse the government's influence on the management of the social rented housing stock in Europe and Australia, in order to assess to what extent government regulations help or impede the development of a market-oriented asset management. We start with an overview of general arguments for government intervention on (housing) markets. We discuss if these arguments can justify intervention in the specific area of social landlords' asset management. Also, we discuss as the potential benefits of increased market orientation. Subsequently, we describe government restrictions to social housing management in eight European countries and Australia. We confront current policies with their implications and negative side effects regarding asset management on the one hand, and their legitimation on the basis of fundamental reasons for government intervention on the other. From this confrontation we distract some general considerations for policy.