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Why Do the Swiss Rent?

48 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2007  

Steven C. Bourassa

Florida Atlantic University

Martin Hoesli

University of Geneva - Geneva School of Economics and Management (GSEM); University of Aberdeen - Business School; Swiss Finance Institute; University of Geneva - Geneva Finance Research Institute

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Date Written: December 27, 2006


At 34%, Switzerland has the lowest home ownership rate in Western Europe. This is a puzzle given the economic strength of the country. We use 1998 household survey data for five Swiss cantons to explore some possible reasons for this. We estimate a tenure choice equation that allows us to analyze the impacts of a number of key variables on the ownership rate. We pay particular attention to the relative cost of owning and renting, which is a function of house prices, rents, and the user cost of owning. The latter is a function of income tax policy and expected house price inflation, among other things. We also measure mortgage underwriting criteria and consider rent control and other policies affecting rental housing. By simulating a number of hypothetical changes to taxation and other policies, underwriting criteria, and price levels, we assess the importance of these variables in explaining the ownership rate. We conclude that high house prices - relative to rents and to household incomes and wealth - are by far the most important cause of Switzerland's low ownership rate.

Keywords: Home ownership, Switzerland

JEL Classification: R21, R31

Suggested Citation

Bourassa, Steven C. and Hoesli, Martin, Why Do the Swiss Rent? (December 27, 2006). Swiss Finance Institute Research Paper No. 07-04. Available at SSRN: or

Steven C. Bourassa (Contact Author)

Florida Atlantic University ( email )

777 Glades Road
Boca Raton, FL 33431
United States
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Martin Edward Ralph Hoesli

University of Geneva - Geneva School of Economics and Management (GSEM) ( email )

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Geneva 4, 1211
+41 22 379 8122 (Phone)
+41 22 379 8104 (Fax)

University of Aberdeen - Business School ( email )

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United Kingdom
+41 22 379 8122 (Phone)
+41 22 379 8104 (Fax)

Swiss Finance Institute ( email )

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Geneva, CH - 1211

University of Geneva - Geneva Finance Research Institute ( email )


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