Switzerland’s biggest city clamps down on 132 millionaires currently living in public projects.


In a city of 400,000 people, 132 millionaires (in both dollars and Swiss Francs) now live in municipal rent-controlled housing. That may speak volumes to the quality of this housing, but it also means homes built for lower-income tenants don’t always reach those who need them. That’s because, while the city has created strict laws to manage affordable rental units, it hasn’t controlled who could live in them—until now.

With new rules announced this week, Zurich hopes to rein in its affordable housing sector. Soon, if you make a lot of money and live in public housing, you might be getting an eviction notice.

This is partly because of Zurich’s unusually high quotas for affordable housing. Since 2011, the city has required that at least 33 percent of all home developments built in the city are rented out at prices no higher than needed to cover the cost of construction and maintenance. Most of these non-profit apartments are built by private developers, who can still get lucrative profits on the remaining two-thirds of their units. Some non-profit units, however, are built and controlled by city-owned housing companies. Since the 33 percent quota was introduced, the city itself has built 1,500 non-profit units, bringing its total number to 9,000.

Increasingly, it seems these 9,000 homes aren’t reaching the right people. Beyond those 132 millionaires, many tenants earn enough money to find homes on the private market. And soon, they may have to. New rules will dictate that, in order to get a non-profit municipal housing contract, prospective tenants can’t earn more than four times times their rent each month. It can rise above that while they live there, but if it exceeds six times the rent, they may be asked to move on. Tenants will be reviewed every two years to see if they still adhere to the regulations, which also include longstanding requirements that every bedroom has an occupant and that the home is the tenants’ sole residence.