Limits on living space floated as solution to Swiss housing crisis

Limits on living space floated as solution to Swiss housing crisis

After crunch meetings were held on May 12 in a bid to solve the housing crisis in Switzerland, the Swiss Tenants’ Association has released a new plan to help ease shortages. Alongside its other demands, the group is calling for each tenant to be limited in what size of apartment or house they can rent.

Swiss government meets to solve housing crisis

On May 12, Economy Minister Guy Parmelin met with real estate agents, landlords, and housing, homeowners and tenants’ associations regarding how to solve the ongoing rental crisis in Switzerland. A recent report by Würst Partner estimated that Switzerland will be short of 10.000 homes by 2024, and short of 50.000 in three years' time - creating extremely high rental costs across the country.

As a result, the Swiss Tenants’ Association has warned that a social time bomb is likely in Switzerland if nothing is done to ease sky-high rents. Therefore, at the crunch talks on May 12, and as experts floated their own ideas on how to solve the crisis, association president and National Councillor Carlo Sommaruga proposed that prospective tenants be restricted in what housing they can choose to live in.

Living space limits in Swiss rental market

As is already the case in public housing cooperatives in a number of Swiss cantons, each individual, group or family would be limited in how much living space each person is allowed to rent. In the demands, seen by 20 Minuten, the association said that the number of rooms in each apartment minus one would be the minimum occupancy - i.e a single person could only have a two-room apartment, and a five-room flat will have to be rented to a group of at least four people.

Speaking to the newspaper, Sommaruga said that the measure would make housing more efficient. Association vice president and National Councillor Michael Töngi told 20 Minuten that "there needs to be a discussion about the consumption of living space and how we can reduce it", noting that individuals are often chosen above families because they are “more pleasant tenants”, leaving single occupants in large houses that they do not need.

Swiss Homeowners' Association condemns living space limits

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Swiss Homeowners’ Association board member and National Councillor Philipp Matthias Bregy was not a fan of the proposal, calling the idea a “massive restriction of property rights.” He argued that the system was highly inflexible, citing the example of “if both parents want to look after the children substantially after a divorce, then that is not possible with a two-room apartment. Or if someone dies, should those left behind be thrown out?"

Board member and State Councillor Hannes Germann said that the plan does nothing to solve the housing problem, arguing that removing bureaucratic barriers for new housing construction is the only way to get out of the crisis. He argued that rental price caps and restrictions - like those implemented in Geneva - create the “worst housing stock in Switzerland because regulations and bureaucracy inhibited the necessary investments."

The Federal Council and Parliament are expected to release their plan to solve the crisis in the coming weeks.

Thumb image credit: / Yury24

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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