During recent decades, urbanization processes and changing population compositions in European cities have underlined the relevance of social sustainability for urban development. Despite a growing amount of research on the social sphere of sustainability, the actual implementation of social sustainability in area development projects remains problematic. In the Netherlands, as in most other European countries, area development is understood as an interdisciplinary practice that strives to integrate strategies, activities and interests of public and private actors into perceived sustainable projects. If area development projects are considered as acts of policy implementation, two questions rise: 1) How are social sustainability dimensions planned, operationalized and implemented through area development projects? and 2) How are they related to governance configurations and mechanisms that relate to decision-making and interventions in these area development projects? The main aim of this paper is to construct a theoretically informed analytical approach to be further developed and applied in PhD research about the implementation of perceived “social sustainability” in area development projects in the Netherlands. We conclude that the implementation of social sustainability in area development projects is a governance process that requires political interventions in a market-driven society and hypothesize that the outcomes of social sustainability in area development are dependent on various aspects of this governance process.