Cooperative Housing in Zurich

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David Robertson:

"In Zurich, much like in Rio de Janeiro, there are no regulations on land prices or rent controls (which are a common strategy to contain rents from Washington, DC and New York to Los Angeles). To maintain affordable housing, the city either constructs and owns apartments for those in need (9,700 units), or subsidizes the construction of affordable housing by non-profit organizations (6,700 units). Most of the affordable units in Switzerland are instead owned by cooperatives (approximately 40,000 units). These organizations must be non-profits for residential purposes. Local governments must approve the rent rates and must have one representative on the cooperative governing board. The local states must also approve cooperative accounts and are responsible for disputes between tenants and co-op residents.

The federal government also plays an important role in funding cooperatives, regulates minimum space standards, and produces research on affordable housing. The National Association of Cooperatives allocates federal money to cooperatives as 10-year loans with a low interest rate. Recently, cooperatives that emphasize eco-friendly housing and energy conservation have received more funding.

Three examples of cooperatives in Zurich are:

  • Kraftwerk, created in 1995 by student activists who raised 20% of the money to fund the purchase of the site. There are 91 housing units, office units, two shops and a cafe on the property.
  • Dreiecke, which was originally a city block seized by the government in the 1970s to construct a highway. When the highway proposal was not completed, local housing fell into disarray. The City wanted to demolish the properties, but resistance led to the creation of a CLT to preserve affordable housing for those who were squatting on the land already.
  • Karthago is a cooperative at the site of a former Toyota showroom. A local group of activists set up the cooperative with the proposal to convert the building into 25 units of housing including a shared kitchen and dining area."