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Old 26.11.2017, 13:31
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The Swiss Housing Paradox?

I've spent the last week or two apartment hunting in Bern and environs and there's a paradox I can't get my head around.

Switzerland is blessed with some of most aesthetically pleasing and frequently breathtaking landscapes. Additionally, the old towns and villages are idyllic and the envy of the world...

...But some people, in their questionable wisdom, decided that it would be a good idea to punctuate this beauty with row upon row, pocket after pocket of grim, drab housing blocks. I've never seen so many populating the rental classifieds (in most of Europe, anyway).

It's odd to see so much open, natural space juxtaposed with miserable-looking blocks of 6, 8 or more apartments crammed together full of people bickering (according to some other threads I've read) about laundry arrangements, neighbour noise and other unsociable neighbour quirks.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm actually a huge fan of Brutalist architecture, but a lot of this stuff is neither here nor there. Again and again, I'm seeing projects-style council-type housing that, in any town or city in, for example, Britain, would be in the poorest areas and avoided, if at all possible. Either that or it would be demolished. I've also lived in Russia and Poland so I can confidently state that some of it looks virtually old-school Soviet.

The big difference is of course that whereas apartments in these kinds of blocks in other countries might be cheap or council housing, in Switzerland they can cost approx 2k per month (the equivalent where I am currently in Germany is only 700-900 euros).

Anyway, just an initial observation from someone who, granted, is yet to move and settle in.

Bonus complaint: I will never get over Swiss prices. They're villainous.

dR
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Old 26.11.2017, 13:35
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

The landscape is beautiful because townies are contained in high-density hutches.

HTH
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Old 26.11.2017, 13:53
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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I will never get over Swiss prices. They're villainous.
I'll take the above comment in the same light as this:
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Anyway, just an initial observation from someone who, granted, is yet to move and settle in.
One sure way to make yourself miserable throughout your stay here is to remain in that mindset. Yes, nearly everyone is shocked at the prices to start with. You are not alone in that. I recommend, though, that you move on to a better mental place, with the first year or so settling in here, so that you can manage to unhook from saying: "but in Otherland, this would cost a mere..."

Welcome to Switzerland. It's easier to make the transition if you are actually pleased to be here. For those who'd prefer not to be, it's much harder.
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Old 26.11.2017, 13:57
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

I can see the need to protect the integrity of the landscape, but does the housing have to look quite so totalitarian, so penal?
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Old 26.11.2017, 14:06
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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I can see the need to protect the integrity of the landscape, but does the housing have to look quite so totalitarian, so penal?
You must be looking at flats in Köniz... I seem to recall they passed a resolution some years back that stated no single family housing could be built anymore. There are rows and rows of boxy, ugly flats, at least from the outside. From the inside many of the newer builds have all the conveniences you could want though - such as your own washing machine.
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Old 26.11.2017, 14:06
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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I can see the need to protect the integrity of the landscape, but does the housing have to look quite so totalitarian, so penal?

No, it doesn't, but it is much cheaper to build this way than with anything approaching "style"

Last edited by evianers; 26.11.2017 at 14:16. Reason: spelling error
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Old 26.11.2017, 14:11
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

Wilkommen in der Schweiz!

I agree, housing is often miserable here. The picture postcards of Heidi like villages are fast disappearing.

There are many factors in why architecture is so grim, why we have few option but to live crowded like rats in a Calhounian sink - but chief among them is that the consumer has little power in the housing market.

Most people rent their entire lives, hence architectural decisions are in the hands of developers and landlords, who naturally want to maximize their profits and so build the most 'efficient' building types to house as many people as possible. Thus the proliferation of ugly concrete boxes.

(My part of) Switzerland is horribly overcrowded, the housing market has been dry as bone for the almost 20 years I have lived here. There are many more people needing housing than available flats. Competition is fierce for any available flat outside the luxury market - so one does not quibble at an ugly fishbowl, one is rather grateful not to be homeless.

In a rental-driven market the average resident has no 'buy in' to housing esthetics. You take what you can get. It is only the small space within that you inhabit where you can create a welcoming home. Given this dynamic, comsumers have been 'trained' not to consider what the building looks like.

The single family purchase market is just as bad. In my area, unless you are spending 5million plus, you have very little choice. Heck - even if you are spending 5 million you still have little choice, as few architects here are interested in building anything but variations on a concrete box.

And if you find that rare gem, an architect who is willing to build a Landhaus, good luck getting appropriate permits. More and more in my area the only projects that get permitted are ugly concrete boxes, so that the new building is in harmony with the existing ugly concrete boxes.

Buildable land in my area sells for 3500-6000 per square meter. And very little buildable land exists anymore. A house, even a villa, is unlikely to have much land or green space around it.

My observations are not based on typical crowded city life. I live 'auf dem Land', in a small village. A village which is fast turning into a sea of ugly concrete.

---

If you come from a place where living in small flats is common, you will fit in well in Switzerland. If you come from a place where a large, warm, welcoming home that truly is one's castle is actually a normal aspiration, a move to Switzerland often means that all but the very wealthy will likely have to accept a significant decrease in material standard of living.

ETA:

The above does not apply to Ticino. (Pace, Tom. )
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Old 26.11.2017, 14:11
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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Welcome to Switzerland. It's easier to make the transition if you are actually pleased to be here. For those who'd prefer not to be, it's much harder.
Yes, I certainly find it harder to settle into countries (this will be my 6 or 7th) which have socially contentious issues that affect me directly (I've never before lived in a country where people talk regularly about leaving the country to stock up on groceries).
But of course every new country comes with its idiosyncrasies, pros and cons: I was told I'd find it easier to make the transition into east Europe if I had right-wing, anti-foreigner attitudes, which I preferred not to do.
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Old 26.11.2017, 17:53
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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Yes, I certainly find it harder to settle into countries (this will be my 6 or 7th) which have socially contentious issues that affect me directly (I've never before lived in a country where people talk regularly about leaving the country to stock up on groceries).
Well I don't know where you've lived, but the concept of cross-border shopping has been around for decades that I'm aware of, probably centuries. Not necessarily groceries, but try, for example, finding a petrol station in France or Germany anywhere close to Luxembourg. There are virtually none within 20km of the border due to much lower prices, whereas at many border crossings you'll find three or four within a couple of hundred metres on the Luxembourg side. That's also true, to a slightly lesser extent, around Basel, where it's perfectly normal for French motorists to drive into Switzerland just to fill up with petrol. Other goods are also often cheaper in CH than some neighbouring countries, due to much lower rates odd VAT.

So you're just jumping on one observation and extrapolating from that, while ignoring. Not a good precursor to coming to live here.
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Old 26.11.2017, 17:56
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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Well I don't know where you've lived, but the concept of cross-border shopping has been around for decades that I'm aware of, probably centuries. Not necessarily groceries, but try, for example, finding a petrol station in France or Germany anywhere close to Luxembourg. There are virtually none within 20km of the border due to much lower prices, whereas at many border crossings you'll find three or four within a couple of hundred metres on the Luxembourg side. That's also true, to a slightly lesser extent, around Basel, where it's perfectly normal for French motorists to drive into Switzerland just to fill up with petrol. Other goods are also often cheaper in CH than some neighbouring countries, due to much lower rates odd VAT.

So you're just jumping on one observation and extrapolating from that, while ignoring. Not a good precursor to coming to live here.
That's unusual, or at least it is around here. Our supermarket car park petrol stations are full of VD, GE, VS, FR and the occasional ZH plates all filling up their tanks with much less expensive fuel
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Old 26.11.2017, 18:00
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

When I moved here, the cost of living was less than in the US (and salary about the same after taxes).

Since that time, prices have barely changed, just the exchange rate.

Thus, I don't see it expensive here.

Meanwhile, I have Italian friends who have me buy them stuff here because it's cheaper, and until the Euro crashed a couple years ago, I even had Italian co-workers who did their food shopping here.

Tom
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Old 26.11.2017, 18:03
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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That's unusual, or at least it is around here. Our supermarket car park petrol stations are full of VD, GE, VS, FR and the occasional ZH plates all filling up their tanks with much less expensive fuel
Fuel here is 20-30% less than in Italy.

In fact, when we are in Trieste, we go to Slovenija for fuel, as they have Swiss prices!

Tom
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Old 26.11.2017, 18:12
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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I can see the need to protect the integrity of the landscape, but does the housing have to look quite so totalitarian, so penal?
Looks great around here.



Nearest neighbor 1km, can even use the chainsaw on Sundays!

Tom
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Old 26.11.2017, 18:24
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

The building I live in is pretty plain on the outside, long these lines: https://www.widewalls.ch/bauhaus-architecture/ but is is very nice on the inside. Every wall is solid concrete and even the interior walls are around 14cm thick - guess they are load bearing. The benefit is I rarely hear the neighbors. Concrete has its benefits.

I've spend the past 30 years as an expat and all things considered Switzerland is one of the best places I've lived. If there was a nearby ocean beach, it'd be the best. The lakes are nice, but they are just not the same.
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Old 26.11.2017, 18:38
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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Yes, I certainly find it harder to settle into countries (this will be my 6 or 7th) which have socially contentious issues that affect me directly (I've never before lived in a country where people talk regularly about leaving the country to stock up on groceries).

I was told I'd find it easier to make the transition into east Europe if I had right-wing, anti-foreigner attitudes, which I preferred not to do.

In CH, in general, people are on higher salaries. Most would happily grocery shop only here if there was no other alternative, however, we do much cross border shopping because we are lucky enough to be surrounded by countries with cheaper prices. In general, people don't struggle to make ends meet here, full restaurants at any given lunch or dinner time 7 days a week is proof of this.
In short we are lucky enough to have our cake...and eat it.

Just go to Hungary where the gap between rich and poor is off the scale, in general, salaries out of corporate companies are a pitance. Go clothes shopping in Budapest (West End Mall, MOM Park) and you will be shocked to see that many prices are dearer than Geneva and Lausanne for the same items.

As for buildings, you are correct, vast majority are old and have bland exteriors, but the majority will have nice apartments, with underfloor heating...caves (cellars) something no one gets in the UK, on-site concierge service for minor repairs, who also maintain the interior and exterior of the buildings in a clean state. These old buildings were well constructed and are well maintained...which unfortunately very much like a Honda car...will just keep going on and on. Another important point to consider, unlike the rest of Europe and the east, Switzerland never had their major cities destroyed by a war, so 100 year old buildings survive and are maintained, unlike other countries that had to raise their cities from the ashes and construct housing for their people, which then actually begs the question...why was so much crap built post-war in Europe when they had a blank piece of paper?
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Old 26.11.2017, 20:49
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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Go clothes shopping in Budapest (West End Mall, MOM Park) and you will be shocked to see that many prices are dearer than Geneva and Lausanne for the same items.

As for buildings, you are correct, vast majority are old and have bland exteriors, but the majority will have nice apartments, with underfloor heating...caves (cellars) something no one gets in the UK, on-site concierge service for minor repairs, who also maintain the interior and exterior of the buildings in a clean state. These old buildings were well constructed and are well maintained...which unfortunately very much like a Honda car...will just keep going on and on. Another important point to consider, unlike the rest of Europe and the east, Switzerland never had their major cities destroyed by a war, so 100 year old buildings survive and are maintained, unlike other countries that had to raise their cities from the ashes and construct housing for their people, which then actually begs the question...why was so much crap built post-war in Europe when they had a blank piece of paper?
But, Budapest ist waaaay more beautiful than most of swiss major cities. People there are also more welcoming than the Swiss, who often openly show their attitude to foreigners.
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Old 26.11.2017, 20:58
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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But, Budapest ist waaaay more beautiful than most of swiss major cities. People there are also more welcoming than the Swiss, who often openly show their attitude to foreigners.
Been there, hated it.

Tom
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Old 26.11.2017, 21:07
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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Looks great around here.



Nearest neighbor 1km, can even use the chainsaw on Sundays!

Tom
I didn’t know bomb shelters had shuttered windows...
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Old 26.11.2017, 21:10
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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Been there, hated it.

Tom
Difficult to polemicize with such a strict and brief statement. Nevertheless, I do think that Budapest is a very beautiful place.

I wanted to underline the fact, that eastern european countries are being currently pointed at for being right-winged and intolerant, while the general swiss intolerance is not a problem at all.
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Old 26.11.2017, 21:13
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Re: The Swiss Housing Paradox?

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Difficult to polemicize with such a strict and brief statement. Nevertheless, I do think that Budapest is a very beautiful place.

I wanted to underline the fact, that eastern european countries are being currently pointed at for being right-winged and intolerant, while the general swiss intolerance is not a problem at all.
Yeah, that's great. Except Hungary has a demonstrable history of having fascist sympathies, whereas Switzerland hasn't.
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