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Parliament relaxes restrictions on second homes

Parliament is easing building restrictions in municipalities with many second homes. Houses built before March 2012 may be demolished, rebuilt, renovated, extended to a certain extent and used without restriction.

In municipalities with over twenty percent second homes, these buildings may currently only be converted and reused to a limited extent. The National Council's Environment and Spatial Planning Committee (Urek-N) wanted to make densification and development in mountain areas possible with the bill.

"Selective flexibilization"

By 27 votes to 11 - against the wishes of the SP and the Greens and with five abstentions - the small chamber voted in favor on Tuesday. Its own Environment Committee had requested that it follow the National Council. In the Council of States, committee spokesman Beat Rieder (centre/VS) spoke of "selective flexibilization".

Specifically, buildings constructed before March 11, 2012 - the date on which the second-home initiative was approved at the ballot box - are to be allowed to be enlarged by up to thirty percent and new apartments created in the event of renovations and after demolition and reconstruction. There should be no restrictions on use in these cases.

The current regulations were preventing investment, said Rieder. Brigitte Häberli-Koller (center/TG) added that the regulations could prevent energy-efficient renovations in old buildings. It must be possible to convert these buildings to modern standards.

A red-green minority rejected the bill. Mathilde Crevoisier Crelier (SP/JU) said that this would trigger the construction of financially attractive second homes and contradict the constitutional article. Affordable primary residences for locals would come under pressure.

Contradiction to the constitution

The Federal Council had already unsuccessfully proposed to the National Council that the additional living space created in this way be expressly designated as primary residences for the local population and not as secondary residences. This proposal was rejected in the Council of States by 17 votes to 26.

The Federal Council is also concerned about the lack of affordable housing in some tourist resorts, said Environment Minister Albert Rösti. However, the regulation that has now been adopted is somewhat at odds with the constitution.

Heidi Z'graggen (center/UR) also advocated the Federal Council's approach. This would make it possible to build new first homes without further boosting demand for second homes. The Urek-N proposal may make sense for vacation settlements from the 1960s and 1970s, but not in village centers.

Perspective needed for locals

Josef Dittli (FDP/UR) also backed the Federal Council with a look at Andermatt UR. The village was benefiting from Samih Sawiris' project. However, he pointed out that the new apartments there were almost exclusively used as second homes. However, locals and young people also needed a perspective.

"Without the possibility of building second homes, Sawiris' project in Andermatt would not have existed," replied Rieder from Upper Valais. The municipality has possibilities to counteract these developments with regulations adapted to its situation.

The National Council approved the bill against the wishes of the SP, Greens and GLP. It is now ready for the final vote. The impetus for this was provided by National Councillor Martin Candinas (center/GR) with a parliamentary initiative.


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