Bank warns of Swiss housing shortage

A block of flats in Geneva. Not everyone wants new houses to be built on their doorstep. © Keystone / Martial Trezzini

Housing construction in Switzerland has not been keeping pace with strong population growth, according to a study by the Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB), which is now warning of a housing shortage.

This content was published on April 18, 2023 - 11:31

Significantly fewer new flats are currently being built than just a few years ago, according to the study Immobilien aktuellExternal link (property latest), published by the ZKB on Tuesday. This is due to the construction sector submitting fewer building applications as a result of the previous high vacancy rates, the ZKB said.

In municipalities with a vacancy rate of more than 2.5%, building applications are a quarter lower than in 2019. But even in municipalities with a shortage of rental housing, fewer flats are planned, it said.

According to the ZKB, the general building conditions also pose a major problem. “Everyone is in favour of [more houses], but not on their own doorstep. As a result, the construction of new houses has become full of hurdles,” it said.

Permit delays

Today, it takes an average of 140 days from planning application to building permit – 56 days more than in 2010. The more densely populated the area, the longer the delay. In the urban canton of Zurich it takes almost 200 days.

In the city of Zurich the time span has even more than doubled to just under a year compared with 2010. The longest delay, 500 days, is in canton Geneva.

What’s more, once the building permit has been issued, projects can still be overturned due to successful appeals, the ZKB said.

Since 2010, one in ten apartments has not been built despite a building permit – some 4,000 apartments a year. One reason for this is the rigid implementation of noise protection regulations, according to the ZKB, which calls on politicians to focus on reducing these hurdles.

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