Several Swiss cities close to reaching limit on second homes

Montreux on Lake Geneva’s shores has already breached the accepted limit. Keystone

According to the Le Matin Dimanche newspaper, many towns and cities are close to reaching the 20% limit on the proportion of real estate stock not occupied year-round. 

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The regulation limiting second homes to 20% came into force in 2016 and was the result of a successful people’s initiative in 2011. The rationale put forth by proponents was to protect the Alps from urbanisation. 

Among the Swiss municipalities at risk of breaching the restriction are Fribourg, Bern, Nyon, Cologny and Sion, with a second home percentage between 17.5% and 19.6%. Montreux on Lake Geneva’s shores is already above the accepted limit at 22.5%. 

“This situation imposes constraints on us," acknowledged Montreux’s mayor Laurent Wehrli. He placed the blame partly on short-term lets of properties via the online platform Airbnb. The town plans bring down its share of second homes by raising the tourist tax in order to encourage long-term rentals and will also build more residential apartments. 

However, some cities dispute the second homes rates calculated by the Federal Office for Spatial Development. Bern, for example, contests that accommodation for students or diplomats were included in the count, thus incorrectly inflating the rate of second homes. In a case where the 20% limit is crossed, it is up to the municipality concerned to prove that the calculation is incorrect. The town of Avenches was forced to make a tedious housing count this year and reduced its rate from 20.1% to 10.2%.

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