Social housing corporations play an important role in society as they provide affordable and good-quality housing for vulnerable citizens. Yet, the sector has to deal with the historical legacy of a high number of old and poorly insulated buildings. While research into the processes that drive or hinder business model innovation in this sector is scarce, this paper draws upon multiple qualitative case studies of social housing in the Netherlands to identify critical success factors for the transition to sustainable business models for new buildings and retrofits. Results show that there are four key attributes for a successful transition process: collaboration (both with supply chain partners as well as other social housing associations); continuous innovation; vision; and the role of the government (including subsidies and fiscal regulations). While economic performance was an important boundary condition, sustainability was not always seen as a strategic organizational objective, a finding that might be explained through considering the legacy of social housing corporations. Furthermore, a number of barriers were identified including the need for customer acceptance, a lack of support from the construction sector and government and macroeconomic factors such as increased construction costs.