People increasingly moving out of Swiss cities to avoid housing crisis

People increasingly moving out of Swiss cities to avoid housing crisis

A new report by Blick has suggested that in order to avoid the continuing housing crisis in Switzerland, many people are choosing to ditch the city for the countryside. Experts told the newspaper that even those on middle-class salaries are struggling to find a house or apartment to rent, especially if they have children.

Swiss cities becoming increasingly unaffordable

“The middle class can hardly afford to live in the city anymore,” noted Nicola Hilti, researcher at the University of Applied Sciences in St. Gallen. Speaking to Blick, she said the phenomenon is most pronounced in Zurich, Zug, Geneva and Basel.

Real estate advisor and expert Donato Scognamiglio told the newspaper that while many are still drawn to the city by opportunities, there are more jobs on offer than places to live. This has led to record-low vacancy rates in Zug (0,33 percent), Geneva (0,5 percent) and Zurich, where only 0,1 percent of apartments in the city are available to rent.

Scognamiglio explained that even people who earn the Swiss median salary - 80.000 francs a year - are now looking to share apartments with other workers or their partners, as they cannot afford city prices on their own. He explained that this leads to issues if people choose to start families and have children, as the increased demand for space comes at a time when childcare costs and reduced working hours are commonplace - making upsizing within city limits near impossible.

Families moving to the Swiss countryside to avoid high rents

One solution that many families are taking, according to Hilti, is to live “either in another neighbourhood or completely out of town.” As they are priced out of where they want to live, “Many have to leave”, she concluded.

Speaking to Blick, the Union of Swiss Cities said that the phenomenon was a cause for concern, with deputy director Monika Litscher telling Blick that "the space for housing is too limited in most of the 130 cities that are affiliated to us."  “For a good mix, you need people of all incomes. As well as singles, the elderly and families,” she argued, noting that many cities like Zurich will need to build more housing, or risk becoming "desertified."

No easy or quick solution to the housing crisis, says experts

“If a group of city dwellers disappears, it does not do the city any good,” noted urban sociologist Barbara Emmenegger. She argued that not only will families moving outside the city increase traffic on roads and motorways, but “if the middle class [moves away], part of the economy collapses. Shops and restaurants aimed at this public are disappearing.”

Sadly, Scognamiglio told Blick that there is no immediate solution to the housing crisis, as many of the most popular cities have already used up all of the areas assigned to housing. He concluded that the only way for the housing crisis to be properly solved is for the current trends in the rental market - which has seen more single people rent full apartments to themselves - to be reversed or better accommodated for.

Thumb image: / Michael Derrer Fuchs

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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