Swiss town calls time on one-franc housing scheme after no bids made

Swiss town calls time on one-franc housing scheme after no bids made

Since 2019, the municipality of Gambarogno in Canton Ticino has been offering to sell a number of traditional rustici houses for the bargain price of one Swiss franc. Just three years later, all of the houses that were offered for sale have still not been purchased and the local council is now preparing to end the scheme. Here’s what went wrong for Ticino’s one-franc houses.

Ticino’s rustici badly located and near collapse

Local politician Pierluigi Vaerini told Blick that one of the key reasons that Ticino’s rustici houses are proving tricky to sell is because of the one-euro Italian alternatives available across the border. Italian properties have proven more popular with investors as they are better connected to utilities such as gas, electricity and water

Besides this, Ticino’s houses are inconveniently located, especially for those living outside the country looking to buy a house in Switzerland. “It takes a good 45 minutes of walking to get to town. Because there is no road to get up there,” Vaerini explained.

With a large amount of renovation and maintenance needed on the buildings, and the tricky location of the houses away from airports and public transport, it's easy to see why the municipality has had more trouble selling the houses than it expected at the scheme’s outset.

Building regulations in Switzerland also put potential buyers off

Adding to the difficulties is the fact that seeking planning permission for renovations on the rustici has proven extremely difficult. Some of the houses are past the point of renovation and need to be completely restored, but the local authorities won’t allow the original houses to be demolished. 

While some of those keen to invest have tried to challenge the government to allow them to renovate the homes, the cost of hiring lawyers in Switzerland significantly increases the price of the “one-franc” houses, not to mention the costs incurred through actual construction work, which could end up being more expensive than taking out a mortgage. For this reason, the scheme is now being scrapped, and the future of Gamborogno’s dilapidated rustici houses is, for the moment, unknown.

Emily Proctor


Emily Proctor

Emily grew up in the UK before moving abroad to study International Relations and Chinese. She then obtained a Master's degree in International Security and gained an interest in journalism....

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