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Housing satisfaction in the context of urban consolidation

January 16, 2024

two light buildings with small balconies

The first stage of the Spatial Planning Act in Switzerland put a stop to urban sprawl, and Swiss cantons were encouraged to promote inward densification. Implementation has been completed in all cantons and the ball is now in the communes’ court. However, there are major differences in implementation here. While there has already been a noticeable density increase in certain agglomerations, corresponding initiatives in cities are still a long way off, and there is a need to catch up.

The desire for urban consolidation raises the question of acceptance. How does housing satisfaction in densely populated areas compare with that in less densely populated ones? Which aspects of living are perceived more positively and negatively in these densely populated zones? We address these questions in this third and final part of the blog trilogy on the Immo-Barometer household survey (see info box for more), in which we determined respondents’ perceived density of their living environment for the first time in 2023.

Lower housing satisfaction in densely built-up areas

To this end, we compared survey participants’ responses regarding perceived density in their residential environment with the responses on housing satisfaction. The results show that both tenants and owners who perceive their surroundings as more densely built-up are less satisfied. At around 38%, the proportion of tenants who are currently very happy in their homes is slightly lower in residential areas with buildings of three or more storeys (medium to very high density) than in less densely populated areas. However, this is due to various residential factors. Overall, satisfaction among homeowners is at a higher level than among tenants – although we can also observe lower satisfaction values at higher densities in this segment.

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Clear differences in property-specific factors

We only carried out differentiated analyses of housing satisfaction and housing factors according to density for tenants, as the number of owners in dense and very dense residential environments is too small to draw any reliable conclusions. For many internal factors, the proportion of satisfied tenants is significantly lower in medium- or high-density residential zones. The greatest difference between satisfaction in high-density and low-density housing is in the factor "appearance of own outdoor/green spaces". Here, the proportion of respondents who are currently fairly or very satisfied is around 12 percentage points lower in medium-density areas and as much as 22 percentage points lower in high-density areas than in low-density residential zones. This may also explain the additional willingness to pay for public spaces in large, densely populated cities (see The value of public space).

Extensive views are often very restricted in densely built-up areas. As expected, therefore, one of the major differences between respondents is in the “views” factor. But it should be noted that there are hardly any differences in the living factor “light and sun”. Despite limited views, many of the households surveyed clearly still enjoy sufficient sunlight.

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Balanced satisfaction regarding value for money

Rent is one factor that varies widely in terms of satisfaction. This may come as a surprise at first. However, the perceived density is naturally higher in urban areas, where higher rents are to be expected for a comparable home. Yet along with the higher costs, the infrastructure on offer is also more extensive. This explains the small differences in value for money between tenants in high-density and lower-density areas, even though satisfaction with the price-quality ratio in low-density residential areas is slightly higher.

Recreational areas easily accessible, even in dense residential areas

The household survey shows that there is only a very minor difference in satisfaction with proximity to local recreation areas between respondents in a high-density area and those in a lower-density one. This is likely due to the short travel times granted by good public transport connections. The latter is also one of the few residential factors for which the satisfaction of people in denser areas is higher than for those in lower-density areas. Well-developed infrastructure is undoubtedly one of the main reasons cities are so popular, especially because proximity to public transport carries above-average weight when looking for a home (see Swiss housing satisfaction: in-depth analysis of trends and influencing factors).

Also striking is the high level of satisfaction of respondents in low-density environments regarding shopping facilities in the immediate vicinity and proximity to schools, kindergartens, and daycare centers. There are only slight differences here between the various density categories – an indication that Switzerland has a well-developed range of shops and services, even in suburban areas.

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The survey shows that the higher the perceived density of the residential environment, the less satisfied respondents are with their homes. It is often a combination of factors influenced by the density of the area that leads to these results. To increase the acceptance of urban consolidation, it is necessary to work on the quality of location factors currently rated less favorably. And when implementing densification projects, care should be taken to optimize the quality of properties wherever possible.

Although the survey revealed slightly lower satisfaction from residents in densely built-up areas, we can assume that urban zones will continue to enjoy high popularity in the future. This is because, first of all, many of the necessities for work, daily life, and enjoyment are close to home. Secondly, thanks to good public transport connections, it is easier to reach destinations outside the city, such as for a stay in the countryside.

Following the articles on general housing satisfaction (Swiss housing satisfaction: in-depth analysis of trends and influencing factors) and sustainability in property selection (Sustainable living: trends and differences), this was the third and final part of the blog trilogy on the Immo-Barometer household survey.

The Immo-Barometer from Wüest Partner
The Immo-Barometer is a nationwide survey on the topics of housing satisfaction and housing needs, which Wüest Partner conducted again in 2023 with the support of the Swiss Homeowners Association (HEV) and the Swiss Real Estate Association (SVIT Switzerland). Around 1,000 representative households in German- and French-speaking Switzerland are surveyed in detail about their current housing situation and any plans for change. The Immo-Barometer is a long-term study that was first conducted in 1988 and has been undertaken at least every two years since then.

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