The number of vacant homes — for rent or for sale — as of June 1st jumped by 5,740 to 45,748 units, the federal statistics office said on Monday.
Housing remained difficult to find in Switzerland’s largest cities, including Zurich and Geneva, the office said.
The vacancy rate was highest in the canton of Jura (2.25 percent) while the lowest rate was in the canton of Basel-City (0.23 percent).
A total of 5,632 villas were unoccupied in the country, an increase of 12 percent from a year ago.
The Lake Geneva region continues to see a dearth of housing units for rent, according to tenants’ association Asloca.
In the canton of Geneva the number of vacant homes available is 0.36 percent, well below the national average of 1.5 percent, the association said.
“From 3,000 to 3,500 housing units are built each year in the Lake Geneva region, which is not enough to respond to the demand,” Olivier Feller, director of the Vaud chamber of real estate told the French-language 20 Minutes newspaper.
Ansgar Gmür, director of the Swiss homeowners association HEV, said the problem is not that there are too few vacant homes but that most people want to live in central locations.
Most of the vacant homes are in rural areas and anyone who is ready to move to the countryside “can easily find housing”, Gmür told the German-language 20 Minuten newspaper.
The newspaper quoted Michael Töngi, of the Swiss tenants’ association, saying the vacancy rate remains well below the 1.5 to two percent range needed for a healthy housing market.
Demand is particularly high for affordable housing, he said.
“Quite expensive apartments are now rather empty — that is a sign that people are no longer willing to pay any price.”