Sky-high rents forcing thousands to move away from Swiss cities

Sky-high rents forcing thousands to move away from Swiss cities

Amid what has been described as the worst housing shortage seen in Switzerland in a decade, a new report from UBS has suggested that many families and individuals are leaving cities in search of a cheaper life in the countryside. The Swiss bank found that rental costs for houses and apartments drop significantly the further they are from major cities.

15.000 people leaving Swiss cities every year

In the study, UBS found that while the five largest Swiss cities continue to grow due to migration from abroad, an average of 15.000 people left them for another part of Switzerland every year between 2020 and 2022, the highest rate of internal departures seen in 40 years. In Zurich, Bern and Geneva, annual departures were between three and four times higher than in the last 10 years.

The bank blamed this phenomenon on the shortage of housing in the largest Swiss cities and rising rents. They predicted that families and individuals are now seeking a cheaper life in the suburbs or rural areas.

Housing in Switzerland much cheaper further away from cities

Indeed, the report noted that in 2023, rental costs for housing just a 10-minute commute away from major cities were 16 percent cheaper on average than city centre homes. With remote working and flexible working hours now commonplace among jobs in Switzerland, the bank argued that living further afield is easier than ever.

Renters in Canton Zurich stand to save the most by moving further afield. UBS noted that homes less than a 10-minute drive away from Zurich city are 20 percent cheaper than those in the centre. This increases to 33 percent for homes 20 minutes away, while homes an hour away are half the price of city-centre apartments. The prospect of moving away from the Swiss metropolis was thrown into sharp relief in June 2023, when a survey from Tsüri found that 92 percent of Zurich residents worry about being able to afford to live in the city.

This phenomenon is also common in Geneva, where suburbs near the city are between 15 and 21 percent cheaper than the centre. However, the difference is less clear in Lausanne and Basel, where rents in neighbouring towns are respectively 5 and 11 percent cheaper on average.

Rural housing projects in Switzerland are cheaper and faster

With housing construction continuing to slow in major cities, UBS predicted that more and more people in Switzerland will move to the suburbs and rural areas in the future. They concluded that this trend will suit construction firms well, arguing that housing projects in rural areas typically face less opposition and are cheaper than those in the city.

Thumb image credit: Paolo Sgarbanti /

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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