The small house movement, an American concept that’s gaining momentum in Switzerland, offers housing that is more affordable and ecologically friendly. But in the highly regulated alpine country, getting a long-term parking permit for tiny homes can be a problem.
These structures are generally less than 1,000 square feet (93 m2), and represent a different way of living, allegedly offering more "freedom" than a regular house. Swiss Public Television, SRF, took a look inside Conny and Sandro Huber's tiny house in Affeltrangen in canton Thurgau.
It cost around CHF70,000 ($70,482) and measures 27 m2. The "bedroom" is simply a bit of roof space over the kitchen, so there is no standing room. This is not a problem for Conny Huber: "You sleep lying down, right? You just have to get used to it." Sandro says it's better than a caravan or camper van because you can choose the fixtures and fittings.
You can build it, but can you park it?
Stephan Scheidegger from the Federal Office for Spatial Development says even a house on wheels needs a permit after a certain period of time: "Outside of residential areas, tiny homes will have a lot of problems," he warns.
In Thalheim an der Thur in canton Zurich, Fiona Bayer is busy building her own tiny home. She is chair of the newly-formed association, "Kleinwohnformen Schweizexternal link" ("Small living forms Switzerland"). The association was set up to fight for a uniform authorisation process for such buildings. According to the website, at the moment, there seem to be no clear laws on granting municipal permits for stationing tiny houses. It's decided on a case by case basis.
Bayer started building her home in November 2016 and hopes to finish in 2020. She says, "It gives me financial freedom: I can work less and have more time for living and leisure. I can move if I want to, and it makes sense ecologically. It doesn't use a lot of materials."