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HOUSING

Affordable housing: Swiss coalition calls for investment and law reform

A broad collective looking to cut the rising costs of housing across Switzerland has launched a campaign to reduce rental costs and make building more sustainable.

Affordable housing: Swiss coalition calls for investment and law reform
Photo: Depositphotos

The campaign, launched on Tuesday by the More Affordable Housing initiative, aims to “end property speculation”. 

The initiative calls for more money to be made available for social housing, including low interest loans for housing cooperatives. 

Housing cooperatives, which operate on a not-for-profit basis, have sprung up as an alternative to traditional profit-focused rentals across Switzerland. 

The initiative calls upon cantons and councils to make land available for these cooperatives, calling it a profitable investment in Swiss society. 

Doing so would reduce housing costs by up to 20 percent, says Green politician Louis Schelbert. 

The campaign also calls for housing investment to be made in sustainable development. This includes more energy efficient building materials and designs, while the campaigners argue that collective housing is far more sustainable and energy efficient than traditional housing. 

The campaign comes just a month before Swiss voters are set to go to the polls to vote on the February 9 affordable housing initiative, which proposes 10 percent social housing and more support for sustainable development. 

Renting in Switzerland

Renting is the major expense for most households across Switzerland, with costs having risen almost 20 percent since 2005. 

READ: How rent prices are fluctuating in Swiss cities

While rents did decline slightly in 2019, experts predict that they will again rise in the near future. 

The initiative is made up of tenant groups as well as unions, political parties and other representative organisations. 

 

 

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COST OF LIVING

Can I have a fire in my backyard or courtyard in Switzerland?

The winter months are on their way and the weather is getting colder. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, can you light a fire?

White marshmallows toast over a fire
If you want to toast marshmallows in your backyard in Switzerland this winter, first make sure it's OK. Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Even if you own a property, the rules for what you can and cannot do in Switzerland can be relatively restrictive. 

As we covered in the following article, laws or tenancy rules can prevent you from doing several types of activities in your own backyard, including felling trees or washing your car. 

You can also be prevented from certain activities on particular days. For instance, rules, bylaws and tenancy arrangements may prevent you from mowing your lawn or hanging out your laundry on a Sunday. 

READ MORE: What am I allowed to do in my backyard or apartment courtyard in Switzerland?

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to stock up the fire pit, fire basket or fire bowl with wood and set it alight. 

The rules for lighting fires are also relatively complex. What you are allowed to do will depend on your canton, your tenancy arrangement and the type of fire. 

Can I light a fire on my own property in Switzerland? 

If you’re living in one of the few Swiss houses to have a fireplace, then you are presumably allowed to use it, unless tenancy regulations prevent it at certain times. 

You are also usually allowed to have a barbecue or grill either on your balcony or in your backyard, provided the noise and smoke is not excessive. 

READ MORE: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Switzerland?

Whether or not you are allowed to have a fire in your backyard however will depend on the rules in your canton. 

You are generally prohibited from burning any waste in Switzerland, other than typical forest or garden waste (i.e. wood, grass, twigs, sticks and leaves). 

That however can also be restricted at certain times of the year.

In Zurich, for instance, fires in backyards are only permitted from March to October, meaning that you will need to find other ways to stay warm in the winter months in Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

Even if lighting fires is permitted, you may want to check with the rules of your rental contract to see if you are technically allowed a fire. 

What about fires in the forest or open parks? 

A campfire might also sound like a nice way to spend a winter evening, but this may be restricted or completely prohibited depending on the circumstance. 

There is no federal ban on fires in forests and other outdoor areas, provided you are not burning waste (other than garden waste etc) and you are not producing excessive emissions. 

The rules are the same on August 1st, Swiss National Day, where special bonfires usually require a permit. 

Note that there are special rules for burning old Christmas trees, which is prevented by law. 

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