Live in it, rent it or be forced to sell: Lucerne housing crisis plan proposed
To combat the housing shortage in the city, a Swiss political party has submitted a proposal that would ban homeowners in Lucerne from keeping their properties empty. It follows a number of “squatting protests” by activists, who were protesting against high rents and the lack of apartments on the Swiss housing market.
New plan would see homeowners forced to live in, rent or sell properties
The idea, proposed by the youth wing of the Green Party of Switzerland, would require everyone who has bought a house in the city to either live in their property or offer it for rent. Under the plan, if a landlord leaves a property vacant for 12 months, the government would offer to buy the house at the market price. If this is refused, and the property is still vacant six months later, authorities would expropriate the house.
In the text of the motion, the Greens argued that vacancy rates in Switzerland - the measure of how many properties are available for rent in a city compared with the total number of dwellings - have reached new lows, dipping to 0,88 percent in Lucerne in 2022. They noted that a vacancy rate of less than 1 percent constitutes a housing shortage. This has been coupled with fears that the housing shortage and rising interest rates could lead to significantly higher rents next year.
Therefore, the Greens argued that all properties must be put on the market, whether the owners want them to be or not. This has been supported by members of the Kellerhaus collective, who occupied a vacant building in Lucerne for 14 days in October, in order to protest the lack of housing.
SP in Swiss city also call for fewer vacant houses
The idea has been proposed alongside a motion by the Social Democratic Party (SP), which called for “anyone who owns apartments or entire houses [in Lucerne] and does not rent them for several months or even years" to register the vacancy with the authorities. "The administration must follow up and check information from the population about vacant properties,” the SP motion read.
According to 20 minuten, the SP’s proposal also includes threats to increase property taxes on vacant housing and even debates expropriating vacant properties for public use. Speaking to the newspaper, a spokesperson from the SP said that the city government could threaten expropriation to encourage owners to rent out properties.
Homeowners' Association calls Lucerne plan nonsense
In response, the President of the Lucerne Homeowners’ Association (HEV), Armin Hartmann, called the proposals utter nonsense. "In Switzerland, home ownership is constitutionally protected and, in principle, owners have the right to freely dispose of their property," he noted.
Speaking to 20 minuten, he argued that few homeowners intentionally leave their houses empty. Instead, the HEV called on Lucerne’s government to give homeowners the ability to rent more freely, arguing that real estate is often left empty because of legal processes.