When the Swiss village of Albinen decided to pay people to relocate there, it made global headlines and was flooded with enquires. Now the authorities say they are beginning to find suitable new residents who fulfill the stringent conditions of the deal.
Albinen, perched 1,300 metres high above the Rhone valley in canton Valais, had been suffering a population drain for some time when the village voted in favour of a rescue package in November 2017. Within 80 years, the number of residents had dwindled by about 100. More than half of those left are elderly. Many of Albinen’s houses are now holiday homes, and the school had to close ten years ago for lack of pupils. The remaining five school-age children now make the 20-minute bus ride to neighbouring villages every day. If a school were to reopen in the village, it was thought more families would be tempted to live there.
Under the repopulation plan, any Swiss or permanent resident of Switzerland who decided to move to the village and buy, refurbish or build a home would be paid an incentive - CHF25,000 ($25,400) per adult, CHF50,000 per couple and CHF10,000 per child.
The terms of the deal also state that candidates must be younger than 45 and the families selected have to agree to stay in the village for ten years or forfeit the money, and invest a minimum of CHF200,000 in buying or building a property. Investment companies were excluded from participating.
The news attracted enquiries from far and wide. According to Swiss Public Television, SRF, foreigners turned up with suitcases, ready to move in. Verena Glauser and her husband, also from Valais, are one example of people who went looking for property in the village. They were searching for an apartment for their daughter in Brazil, who wanted to move her whole family there.
The mayor, Beat Jost, said the community was flooded with calls, but officials had to insist that offer was only open to people with C residence permits or Swiss passports, who met the strict conditions.
The municipality has received two firm requests and is considering three others. In early October, a family from canton Aargau in northern Switzerland will settle in the village, the first to do so under the relocation scheme. The couple are said to have one child and another on the way. They have bought a house in Albinen, and will receive CHF70,000.
All the other serious contenders seem to be from the village itself. "The second approved application concerns an individual from Albinen who is carrying out major alterations on an old house," says Jost. "There are also three other concrete projects from young people in Albinen, who are expected to submit their applications for contributions in the second half of the year."
The cost of the scheme will be borne by a special fund into which the municipality agreed to pay CHF100,000 per year. The number of places is limited. The village said it expected to attract five to ten families at the most over the next five years.
What does Albinen have to offer?
The small village features narrow cobbled turns, centuries-old houses, a church and a shop. It's about seven kilometres from Leukerbadexternal link, home to one of Europe's largest medical wellness centres with ten thermal baths. Charlie Chaplin, Tolstoy and Goethe are said to be among those who travelled there to bathe in the calcium- and sulphate-rich thermal waters. In winter, Leukerbad is a ski resort.end of infobox