Cap on holiday homes to prompt legal battle

One in five communes exceeds the 20 per cent quota and is directly affected by the cap on holiday homes Keystone

Environmental groups have criticised the government’s implementation of holiday home quotas following a nationwide vote five months ago. It is expected that the courts will have the final say on numerous legal appeals.

This content was published on August 22, 2012 - 17:46 and agencies

Campaigners who championed a 20 per cent cap on holiday homes per commune have accused the cabinet of caving in to pressure from the construction industry and tourist regions.

The Helvetia Nostra group of the Franz Weber Foundation said an interim statute approved by the cabinet was in violation of a people’s verdict. The initiative was approved by 50.6 per cent of voters on March 11.

Vera Weber said the cabinet is extending the legal uncertainty by delaying the deadline for implementing an interim statute until the beginning of next January. Environmentalists had hoped the statute would come into force in September.

Weber expects a flood of building applications to be filed in mountain resorts in the next few months before the statute comes into force. Her group has called on citizens to lodge appeals against such requests.

Weber also said the cabinet decision would trigger an avalanche of legal bureaucracy.

The Green Party warned of “a chaos of legal complaints and appeals” and problems for the local building sector trying to cope with a flood of construction contracts.

However, mountain regions, tourism organisations and centre-right parties hailed the government decision as a pragmatic compromise.


Environment Minister Doris Leuthard made the details of the legal statute public following Wednesday's cabinet meeting. They include the date of implementation, the definition of holiday homes and notable exceptions.

Under the interim regulation it will remain possible to convert existing buildings into holiday homes while communes with a holiday quota above 20 per cent can still allow exceptions.

The government believes it has met the requirements of a sizeable minority who lost in the March vote by a margin of one per cent, according to Leuthard.

She added many issues would have to be decided by courts.

“Opinions by legal experts differ widely. Eventually the Supreme Court will have to make a policy decision,” she told a news conference.

Parliament is still to discuss a law to supplement the constitutional amendment voted on in March.

In the past few months, the number of building requests for holiday homes - particularly in popular mountain tourist regions in cantons Graubünden, Valais and Bern - soared exponentially.

The local authorities in the resort of Laax in Graubünden received a record 252 applications for holiday homes – up from a three-month average of 15 requests.

Key facts

Switzerland is made up of more than 2,550 communes in 26 cantons.

Some 570 communes, notably in mountain regions, have more than 20% of holiday homes.

Local authorities in the Valais, Ticino, Graubünden and Bernese Oberland regions are particularly affected by the quota.

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