New Limitation On Holiday Homes In Switzerland

Author:Mr Marco Rizzi and Yves Meili
Profession:Froriep Renggli
  1. Background

    Switzerland has well known limitations on the purchase of residential properties by foreigners (Lex Koller). Swiss citizens and residents, however, are free to build and purchase unlimited numbers of residential properties at the place(s) of their choice. It has traditionally been within the competence and discretion of each municipality to designate land for construction and to determine what extent of spatial expansion and development is appropriate. Due to strong demand and the seasonality of mountain tourism, popular holiday destinations (such as Verbier, Zermatt, St. Moritz, Gstaad or Klosters) have always had a challenging task in this respect. On the one hand, they have to preserve their landscapes and ensure the affordability of land for local residents, on the other hand they need to stimulate the regional economy and create jobs. At present in the most popular tourist locations, holiday homes often account for some 50 % to 70 % of the total residential market. In these areas, construction has been booming for several years. Attempts to control or limit such activities through local legislation have led to a further jump in already high prices.

  2. The Initiative on the Limitation of "Second Homes"

    On 11 March 2012, the Swiss voters unexpectedly approved an initiative setting a strong limitation on "second homes". This results in the introduction of a new article in the Swiss Constitution which will impose upon municipalities in the whole country a maximum thres-hold of 20 percent on "second homes", both in terms of number of residential units and of gross dwelling area. The unexpected success of the initiative has created political tensions, as it was approved with a very narrow margin (50.6 % of votes in favour) and, ultimately, due to the support of voters from areas not affected by the initiative's consequences. The new limitation needs to be implemented through federal legislation and will override existing cantonal and municipal regulations. While many questions remain as to how the limitation can and will be implemented and enforced, it has the potential to affect the real estate market of the best-known tourist areas substantially and, hence, their economy in general.

  3. What Properties are Affected?

    The approved amendment of the Constitution needs clarification in various points. Uncertainty starts with the new constitutional term "second home", which is a novelty. It is not clear under what prerequisites...

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