Zurich needs so much living space

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Zurich needs so much living space


According to a publication by the city of Zurich, the need for residential space in the city has increased by around 11 square meters since the 1970s. Today's city residents claim an average of 41 square meters of net living space, which corresponds to an increase of around 40 percent. Since the beginning of the 2000s, however, a new trend is becoming apparent.

Higher household income and growing living space consumption

The city of Zurich assumes that its residents have been able to afford ever larger living spaces since the 1970s owing to increasing prosperity and higher household income. Significantly larger apartments were built in recent years than was the case 50 years ago. Interestingly, between 1970 and 1989 the consumption of residential space per capita in the city of Zurich increased by half a square meter per year. However, since the 1990s until today (over the entire period), this has increased even more to one square meter.

The Swiss people pay a lot of money for large living space. In Switzerland in 2013, a very large proportion of the average household budget was spent on housing and energy. According to the Federal Statistical Office (BfS) around 15.1 percent of the average household budget is spent on housing and energy. Of the average household income of around 7130 francs, the Swiss spend about 1520 francs on housing and energy. And, by the way... households in Switzerland consist on average of 2.19 people and 61% of households have to live on a lower budget than the Swiss average.

Two different trends

Since the 2000s, two opposing trends have appeared in the City of Zurich: On the one hand, the occupancy rate per home is increasing again owing to the expanding families. On the other hand, the consumption of living space per person is again increasing slightly, since many older, single people live longer in their apartments and wait to much later before moving into retirement homes.

Building cooperatives in the city often requires a minimum occupancy. This is usually calculated by the number of rooms minus one; this rule is only enforced once the tenants sign the lease. This aim of the rule is to stop favorable rentals from prompting building cooperatives to increase the consumption of living space. Because of this, the housing consumption of building cooperatives is below the urban average. People living in urban building cooperatives use on average 5.7 square meters less living space than the rest of the population.

Most households in the City of Zurich continue to remain single-person households, as the statistics from 2014 have shown. 44.5 percent of households are occupied by only one person, followed by two-person households. If you live in one of these households, whether as couples or families, read our blog post on living together. While the number of households in the larger neighboring municipalities of Zurich has been steadily rising since the 1970s, it has stagnated in the metropolitan area of Zurich since the 1990s. In communities such as Opfikon or Schlieren, the number of households has doubled since 1970. In the city of Zurich, on the other hand, the number of households, for example, increased by only 4 percent between 1980 and 1990.

(Source: City of Zurich: Households in the city - Analysis of living together )

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Larger apartments are being built

Interesting information can also be found in the statistics for home sizes by construction year. Here it is striking to note that between 1961 and 1970 only one in four apartments had a floor plan of more than 80 square meters. This has clearly changed for apartments that were built since 2001. A total of 81 percent of the apartments in this construction period are 80 square meters and more in size. Larger apartments can be found, for example, in Zürichberg. Here, in this affluent area, the consumption of living space is high and at the same time the occupancy of the apartments is lower. In contrast, neighborhoods such as Saatlen in Zurich North or Friesenberg at the foot of the Üetliberg, the inhabitants consume significantly less living space than the urban average.


The city of Zurich maintains that in connection with the consumption of living space, this may not increase significantly for sustainable urban development. This is important in terms of resource consumption (e.g. heating costs) and also given the limited constructible areas in the city. So, the city therefore welcomes the trend of increased housing communities and cooperative housing construction. This allows sharing of more space, resulting in a lower consumption of living space while being socially enriching by creating new forms of living.