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How Basel and Zurich are fighting back against rising rents

Apartments along the water in the Swiss city of Zurich
Zurich has among the highest rent costs of anywhere in Switzerland. Photo: Pixabay
Citizens in Basel and Zurich are fighting back against rising rents with two separate campaigns to freeze rental hikes in two of Switzerland’s most expensive cities.

Housing affordability continues to be an issue in Switzerland, particularly in the nation’s larger cities, where rents have risen dramatically in recent years. 

While nationwide rents have risen by ten percent in the past decade, increases have been much higher in Switzerland’s cities. 

More than half of Swiss live in rented accommodation, which is the highest rate of any European country. This is also much higher in Switzerland’s major cities. 

After a 2020 attempt to have affordable housing laws put in place on a nationwide basis failed in Switzerland, citizens are trying to put in place meaningful changes at a cantonal level. 

READ MORE: Why Switzerland voted no to affordable housing

What is happening in Basel? 

Faced with the constant increase in rents, tenants in Zurich and Basel-City, where rental housing is among the most expensive in Switzerland, are preparing initiatives to limit cost hikes.

Basel-City’s initiative, “Yes to real protection of housing”, will be put to the vote on November 28th. It aims to limit rent increases after renovation for practically all apartments.

Reader question: How can I legally reduce my rent in Switzerland?

Currently, landlords are allowed to increase rents significantly after renovations have taken place. 

If the initiative is approved, Basel-City could be “the gateway to rent ceilings in German-speaking Switzerland”, according to a report in Neue Zurcher Zeitung.

Landlords have hit back however, saying that if the initiative passes it will wipe around 1.2 billion francs in value off the city’s housing market. 

What is taking place in Zurich?

As for Zurich, Social Democrats will launch a cantonal rent control initiative for renovations and conversions next year.

If the initiative receives enough support, it will be put to a vote in the canton. 

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest canton and suffers from some of the highest rents anywhere in the country. 

“The situation on the housing market is dramatic,” Alain Thiébaud, head of the housing working group of the Zurich SP, told the NZZ. 

READ MORE: In which Swiss canton can you find a rental bargain?

Rents in Switzerland continue to rise

Just as the prices of single-family homes are going up, so are rents in many Swiss cities.

They continued to rise in October, according to surveys carried out by the Homegate real estate portal. Despite strong disparities between cities and cantons, the price level remains high overall.

Rents continued to climb in Zurich and Geneva — traditionally the most expensive property and rental markets — while  in Vaud and Valais  they dropped, after increasing in September.

If you have any questions about life in Switzerland, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected].

READ MORE: How much do you need to earn to afford a house in Switzerland?


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