About one of every ten Swiss households believes it has too much living space, a federal agency reports.
The reason? Apparently, they are concerned that their living spaces might be taking up too much of and causing harm to the surrounding landscapes.
The Federal Housing Office published two studiesexternal link on Thursday that found one-tenth of the Swiss who were involved in the studies believed their homes are too big. That might come as a shock to the many people who have had trouble even finding a suitable place to live in some housing-scarce Swiss cities.
One of the hot topics in the run-up to the February 2014 nationwide vote to impose immigration curbs was whether housing had gotten too expensive.
The conservative right Swiss People’s Party, which pushed the controversial anti-immigration initiative, argued that an influx of foreigners had led to a massive hike in the cost of housing and rental apartments in densely populated areas, particularly Zurich and Geneva.
Experts say Switzerland is not even close to being the most densely populated country in Europe, partly because it defines quite precisely where new building zones are permitted.
The Swiss government has acknowledged a link between strains on the housing market and the free movement of persons, however, but officials say that the foreign labour demands are driven by economic needs.
Inclination to protect
For those can find a place to live in Switzerland, who is to say how much space is too much? One of the studies found that people’s belief that their “consumption” of space is too much is generally based on concerns about the natural health of their surroundings.
The second study found that people would be encouraged to take up less living space if there were a tax benefit or occupancy regulations and other limits.
Both of the studies looked at how well people had accepted revisions to a spatial planning law in 2013. The Federal Housing Office says the revised law “showed that the population wants to protect the landscape and farmland.”
However, the federal officeexternal link also says that “housing is one of the most important reasons for land use and urban sprawl”. And some recent numbers might explain why some feel they have too much space.
The surface area of residential buildings in Switzerland rose by 53% between 1985 and 2009, the office says, while the residential population only increased by 17%.