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How the Swiss live – from co-operatives to mobile homes

Häuser vor Bergen
A residential area in Chur, eastern Switzerland Björn Allemann/Keystone

From a single-family dwelling to a hip co-operative to a quirky home on wheels: in this series, Swiss people open their doors to

The majority of Swiss live in apartment buildings as renters. In 2016, 2.2 million households were living in rented apartments, and another 1.4 million households were living in premises they owned. In fact, the ratio of owned homes has been steadily rising since 1970 in Switzerland. 

In 2017 there were 4.47 million dwellings available, for a population of 8.4 million. The nationwide average monthly rent for a three-room apartment was CHF1,264 ($1,274) in 2016. In the major population centres, rents tend to be quite a bit higher. 

Living in Switzerland chart
Kai Reusser /

Single-family dwellings only became popular in Switzerland after 1961. But now six out of ten buildings in Switzerland are single-family dwellings. Especially in rural areas, they seem to be popular. High-rise apartment blocks remain few in Switzerland – the first of these was built in 1932 in Lausanne. 

For some time now in Switzerland environmental considerations have had a major effect on home-building practices. In the past 20 years some 50,000 buildings have been certified with the “Minergie” label for low-energy consumption. Depending on the region, that means anything from 10% to 25% of new construction. In international terms that seems to be unique. 



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More and more space

Swiss are living more luxuriously and expensively than they used to. “Apartments are getting bigger – in comparison with the 1980s, newer apartments have 10% more space,” says Sibylla Amstutz, professor of interior architecture at Lucerne Technical College.

On average, one Swiss now has 46 m2 of living spaceExternal link. That all costs money: larger apartments are more expensive. 

That more living space is being used has to do not only with bigger apartments but with the trend to single-person households. “Elderly people often live alone. But young people too are tending to live apart from partners,” Amstutz explains. 

Luxury interiors 

The floor plan of apartments has changed too. “Before, there was a separate small kitchen, but now living room, dining room and kitchen are one big space,” she says. 

Given modern ventilation, while you are cooking you can talk to guests without the sofa and books smelling of steak after a while. The large, welcoming kitchen is today part of the Swiss lifestyle. “The kitchen has become a status symbol,” Amstutz says. 

It’s the same thing with the bathroom: gone are the days when the washroom was just that – a room to wash in. “Today many baths are like a private spa,” according to Amstutz. More and more frequently new apartments have not one but two complete bathrooms. 

“In apartments with at least four rooms, a second bathroom or separate loo is now standard,” she says. There is also a trend towards large balconies. 

Amstutz regrets that investors in new apartment blocks in Switzerland are not very innovative. 

“Today there is no vision about living,” she says. Four-room apartments continue to be built with a large parents’ bedroom and two small children’s rooms, although many Swiss no longer live in a traditional family arrangement with two parents and two kids. 

Yet there is room for optimism. “Co-ops especially now cater to other lifestyles and offer various kinds of affordable apartments,” Amstutz points out. 

Next in the series: Minergie.

We asked occupants of “normal” but also more “exotic” housing arrangements to show us where they live. We ask them how much they spend on housing, how they heat, cook and wash, and how much work they put into their home.

(Translated from German by Terence MacNamee)

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