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Why Swiss tenants are unhappy with plan to solve housing shortage

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why Swiss tenants are unhappy with plan to solve housing shortage
The government has not resolved rental problems, tenants' group says. Photo: Pixabay

Swiss Economy Minister Guy Parmelin met with representatives of cantons and municipalities, as well as construction and real estate sectors on Tuesday in an effort to find solutions to Switzerland’s worsening housing problems.

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Switzerland has been impacted by a scarcity of available dwellings — and consequently, high rents — for a long time, and the situation is likely to worsen, at least in the short and medium term.

Tuesday's meeting, intended to resolve the shortage, ended with a 30-step plan seeking "to increase the housing supply and create more quality, low-rent housing adapted to needs [of the population],” the Federal Council said in a statement.

One of the proposed measures is to speed up the administrative processes to obtain permits, so that more rental buildings could be constructed quicker.

However, the government’s announcement was met with less than enthusiastic response from the Swiss Tenants Association (ASLOCA) which says the plan is nothing more than a mere “window dressing.”

One of ASLOCA’s complaints is that the plan lacks “rapid and effective measures,” according to the association’s president Carlo Sommaruga. 

Parmelin admitted as much.

“As the housing supply is organised according to the principles of the market economy, state action in this area is voluntarily limited,” the economy minister said.

Additionally, various measures which were originally envisaged had been abandoned due to the “tense situation of federal finances," he added.


'Smoke and mirrors'

Another complaint is that many of the measures discussed at the meeting were too vague and tentative.

Some proposals, for example, are along the lines of "examine whether," "examine the possibility of," or "carry out a feasibility study on" — nothing immediate or concrete, ASLOCA noted.

“It’s all smoke and mirrors,”Sommaruga said. “The Federal Council is postponing urgent measures indefinitely.”

The tenants’ most pressing concerns, on the other hand, "do not seem to interest Parmelin,” the organisation noted.


What ‘pressing concerns’ is ASLOCA referring to?

Aside from defending tenants’ rights in general and advocating for more affordable housing, the group also acts on the legislative front (Sommaruga is a MP from the Social Democratic party).

For instance, “ASLOCA demands the introduction of rent controls in order to prevent landlords from taking advantage of abusive rents," the association said in a press release.

It also calls for the introduction of an "official formula" at the national level requiring landlords to reveal the amount of the rent paid by previous tenants — which is currently not the case.

“All these demands, essential from ASLOCA’s the point of view, are not part of the government’s ‘action plan’, or not considered as a priority.”

READ ALSO: How bad is Switzerland's housing shortage and what can be done about it?


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