The aim of the proposal, created by the Swiss Tenants’ Association (ASLOCA), is to pass a law mandating that 10 percent of newly-built apartments in Switzerland should be rented at low cost.
However, a cross-party committee, led by homeowners' organizations, has launched a campaign against this initiative on Thursday, calling the proposed measure “inefficient and costly”.
The opposition committee claims that the 10-percent quota would cost taxpayers at least 120 million francs each a year. It would also lead to government interference in the housing market, which would be contrary to the principle of property rights and contractual freedom.
Most of Switzerland’s political parties, as well as the parliament and the Federal Council have spoken against this initiative, arguing that housing should remain in the private sector, and not be subject to government mandates.
“What ASLOCA is asking for is not realistic,” the government has said.
But federal authorities conceded that “for certain people and in certain regions, it is difficult to find affordable housing.”
Therefore, if the ASLOCA proposal is rejected by Swiss voters, the government said it would release 250 million francs for the construction of low-cost dwellings.
Unlike other European nations, there is no government-financed housing in Switzerland, but there are subsidised apartments for low-income families.
Reasonably priced rental accommodation is difficult to find in Switzerland, especially in big cities like Zurich, Geneva, and Basel, as the number of available apartlments is very low, and the competition to get them can be fierce.
Foreigners are often at a disadvantage in this process; a study released earlier this year showed that landlords prefer Swiss tenants over immigrants.
However, discrimination in housing is not specific to Switzerland; it exists in other countries as well including France and Germany.