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Zurich hit by affordable housing shortage amid record-high immigration

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Zurich hit by affordable housing shortage amid record-high immigration
Zurich's problem: More people, fewer apartments. Photo: Pixabay

Switzerland’s largest city has experienced an unprecedented influx of foreigners in 2022. But finding affordable housing is a growing problem.

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In all, 30,000 foreign nationals settled in Zurich last year, beating its 2007 record of 28,500 new arrivals from abroad.

In fact, immigration in the canton was higher in the first 11 months of 2022 than at any time since 2011.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: Zurich's foreign population climbs to record high 

And according to a forecast by the Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB), more people are likely to move to the Zurich area this year as well — only to be faced with a shortage of dwellings. 

Switzerland’s largest city is attractive for immigrants, as it offers many job opportunities and high salaries. However, the area is running out of rental apartments.


"Because the brakes were put on in the construction sector, the canton is not prepared for the increase in the resident population," said Ursina Kubli, head of ZKB’s real estate research.

Specifically, 25 percent less housing permits have been issued in Zurich since 2018, while the demand has been growing steadily.

Consequently, rents in the canton continue to rise: they are about 4 percent higher, according to the ZKB, though the increase is not only due to low supply, but is also driven by higher energy costs — a charge that landlords pass on to tenants.

There are several reasons for the decline in residential projects, Kubli said.

Dense construction is becoming increasingly problematic because of high land prices in the Zurich region, along with noise protection regulations.

Therefore, a number of construction projects are being delayed. However, even the construction projects currently underway will not necessarily solve the shortage problem, according to Walter Angst from the Zurich Tenants' Association.

That is because newly-built apartments are geared towards high-income tenants, so “the acute shortage will continue in the middle and low price segments," he said.
READ MORE: Renting in Switzerland: How to find a flat in Zurich

A wider problem

Due to the scarcity of housing and high rents — not only in Zurich, but also in other Swiss cities and conglomerations with growing population — new problems could emerge, Economy Minister Guy Parmelin said on Monday.

“Insufficient housing supply can limit economic development, and socio-political tensions could arise if rents increase and people on low incomes can no longer find affordable housing,” he pointed out.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How immigration is impacting Switzerland 


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