All Housing Executive homes are unlikely to be divided between existing housing associations under plans for a radical shake-up of the organisation, it was revealed.
Unions with workers in the Executive claimed privatisation to attract investment may increase rental rates charged to vulnerable tenants.
But the minister has pledged charges by any new social landlord would be set by a new independent panel within government guidelines and rental policy to ensure affordability.
Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland is to brief the Assembly next week about his plans and wants to create a new regional housing body and separate landlord to replace an Executive he believes currently cannot make best use of public money and assets.
A DSD official said around 90,000 homes could be moved out of the public sector and become part of the housing association sector.
"The minister has indicated that we are at the start of a process of detailed design so that we move forward with consensus and agreement, there will be a lot of consultation with stakeholders and the Social Development Committee," he said.
"While it is impossible to pre-empt the outcome of that process, experience across the UK is that with a large-scale movement of this nature a bespoke body or bodies are created and all the stock and staff transfer from the existing organisation."
A similar process happened in Glasgow as part of a shake-up of housing there.
The official added: "If you look to examples elsewhere, it is unlikely that they could be divided up between the housing associations."
Housing associations are non-profit organisations which own, let and manage rental housing, providing affordable housing, and the revenue acquired through rent is ploughed back into the acquisition and maintenance of property. There are 30 in Northern Ireland.