Housing change has been a major part of urban social and economic reform in China. Earlier research and literature on housing policy focused largely on changes which affected office workers employed by government departments and professional institutions. Relatively little attention has been given to the examination of housing reform practice in state-owned enterprises. This paper aims to enhance our understanding of the social impacts of housing reform in China. It reports findings from fieldwork carried out in four large cities; highlights the different approaches adopted by state-owned enterprises; and assesses their impacts on different categories of employees. © 2005 The Editors of Urban Studies.