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Voters agree limit on holiday homes

Rampant construction of holiday homes will no longer be allowed Keystone

The Swiss have backed an initiative by environmentalists to limit the construction of holiday homes. The initiative was carried by a small margin.

In other votes on Sunday, a proposal to increase statutory holiday entitlement was rejected. Voters also turned down the re-introduction of a fixed book price agreement.

Final results showed 50.6 per cent of voters backing the initiative to set a maximum quota of 20 per cent on holiday homes across the country. A majority of cantons also backed the move.

Franz Weber, whose environmental organisation brought the initiative, said he had been sure of winning, sensing that the people were behind him.

“I am proud of Switzerland and happy that the people have voted in their own interest,” Weber said.

Opponents expressed disappointment, and said there needed to be urgent clarification about possible exceptions to be made.

The coordinator of the committee that led the no campaign, Thomas Egger, said “We are sorry it has come to this.”

Revisions already made to the zoning law would have dealt better and more speedily with the problems of overbuilding, he said, echoing the opinion of government and parliament.

There are an estimated 500,000 second homes in Switzerland accounting for about 12 per cent of total housing.


Also on Sunday the electorate turned down an initiative to extend statutory holidays to six weeks from the current four.

An overwhelming 66.5 per cent said no, as did all but one canton – Jura. To be passed, an initiative has to have the support of a majority of voters as well as a majority of the 26 cantons.

Most political parties, the business community and the government had warned the initiative would result in higher labour costs and be detrimental to the economy.

The business federation, economiesuisse, said the result was a boost to Switzerland as a business hub. It said a yes vote would have harmed the country’s ability to compete internationally. 

For the unions, the president of Travail Suisse, Martin Flügel, said he was “proud to have brought the issue of increased pressure at the workplace to public attention”.



People’s initiative

This content was published on The people’s initiative allows every citizen to propose a modification of the constitution. To be valid it must be signed by at least 100,000 people within a period of 18 months. Parliament can directly accept the initiative. It can also refuse it or put forward a counter-proposal. In all cases a nationwide vote takes place.

Read more: People’s initiative

Books and tax breaks

The planned re-introduction of an agreement on fixed book prices found no support either. Final results showed just 43.9 per cent in favour.

Resale price maintenance regulations were repealed in the French-speaking part of Switzerland in the early 1990s, while in the main German-speaking region the book agreement was abolished only in 2007.

About 500 publishers in Switzerland produce around 10,000 books annually in all four national languages.

An initiative aimed at granting tax breaks to Swiss saving up to acquire a house or an apartment failed to convince voters. Just 44.2 per cent said yes. A majority of cantons were against.

Supporters had argued cantons should be allowed to grant fiscal incentives to raise the traditionally low rate of home ownership in Switzerland.

Voter turnout on Sunday was 45.5 per cent.

About 5.1 million citizens, including 136,000 registered Swiss expatriates, were eligible to participate in the five nationwide ballots on March 11.

Votes and elections are also scheduled in many cantons and at a local level on the same day.

It is the first in a series of four nationwide ballots scheduled this year.

As part of ongoing trials with e-voting, around 122,000 citizens, mainly Swiss abroad, were able to cast their ballots online.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR