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Which parts of Switzerland are hardest hit by housing shortage?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Which parts of Switzerland are hardest hit by housing shortage?
Only stepped-up construction of new apartment buildings can solve the housing crisis. Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash

Worsening scarcity of affordable housing and soaring rents – with the first being the cause and the latter the result — is one of the ‘hottest’ topics in Switzerland right now. However, some parts of the country are more impacted than others, at least for now.

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If you have been reading our news lately, or perhaps experiencing the shortage of rental housing yourself, you know that the situation is dire.

So much so, in fact, that Economy Minister Guy Parmelin is bringing together representatives of cantons, the construction sector, as well as the associations of tenants and landlords, in order to find solutions to the critical situation.

Among measures to be discussed are the rules for land use, so that more new houses can be built quicker.


“The challenges before us are immense,” Parmelin said on Tuesday, adding that if the present crisis is not resolved soon, it will create social tensions among the population.

Such was already the case recently, when Zurich residents took to the streets to express their outrage with the shortage of affordable dwellings.

READ MORE: How Zurich’s housing shortage sparked massive rioting 

The reasons for the shortages — and consequently for high rents in low-vacancy areas — is that construction has slowed down across the country, while the demand for new housing is rising due to the unprecedented influx of foreigners in 2022.

READ MORE: How foreigners are changing Switzerland


Where is the housing market most under pressure?

The situation is most critical in and near large urban centres where many many multi-national companies are located, its affluent workforce driving the prices of rents upward.

The situation in Geneva, for instance, has been tense for years, due to its geography and demographics.

The canton is nestled in the southwest corner of the country, where it is wedged between France and Lake Geneva. The land for new constructions is limited, while the demand is growing steadily.

Restricted land use is also one of the roots of housing shortage in other regions as well.

Switzerland is a small country where land is scarce. Much of is used for agriculture, so it can’t be built up, unless current zoning laws are amended.

However, the Lake Geneva area is not the only region where the housing market is tight.

In the Swiss-German part, the Greater Zurich area, which includes Zurich city and canton, as well as Zug, is also struggling with lack of affordable housing, as evidenced by the above-mentioned riot.

READ MORE: Zurich hit by affordable housing shortage amid record-high immigration

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As a matter of fact, most regions of Switzerland are now in the throes of the housing crisis, experts say.

According to an analysis by Raiffeisen bank, the fall in national vacancy rate is affecting 22 out of 26 cantons. Only Jura, Basel-City, Glarus and Schaffhausen have been spared so far. 

Traditionally, small towns and so-called ‘rural’ cantons like those in central Switzerland, are more immune to housing crises than their bigger, more industrialised and more international counterparts.

But that is changing as well.

“Six regions of central Switzerland, as well as Graubünden, are now reaching historic lows” in terms of vacancies, according to Credit Suisse economist Sara Carnazzi Weber.

The forecast for  near future is not looking much better either.

“Switzerland is heading towards a housing shortage of unprecedented proportions,” said Fredy Hasenmaile, the bank’s real estate expert. “In urban centres, housing is already very scarce. The problem has not yet reached the countryside, but it is only a matter of time.”

This pretty much answers the question of which areas are affected the least by the housing shortage — there are only four now and there will be even fewer of them as time goes by.


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