City of Zug, 11.07.2024

Petition launched for the rapid implementation of the initiative for affordable housing

One year after the adoption of the popular initiative for affordable housing: the SP Stadt Zug has launched a petition for the rapid implementation of the initiative for affordable housing

The SP Stadt Zug (Socialist party of the City of Zug) believes it is "finally" time to respect the referendum decision, and is currently collecting signatures in favour of this. The local building co-operatives (Baugenossenschaften) are also criticising the delay in implementing the "2,000 flats for Zug's middle class" initiative, more than a year after it was adopted.

Around a year has passed since the SP popular initiative "2,000 flats for Zug's middle class" was adopted. From the initiators' point of view, not much has happened since. With regard to the Rössliwiese by the lake in Zug, the party has therefore recently launched the petition "Affordable flats instead of office space" in the Zug City Council (Stadtrat), and is collecting signatures.

"The population wants to see the initiative implemented, and has no sympathy for attempts to water it down. We had many good discussions," says Rupan Sivaganesan, President of the SP Stadt Zug. Many people are surprised that some middle-class parties do not accept the referendum, and are trying to circumvent the provisions of the initiative. "People expect progress to be made with the development of the city's properties, and for cooperatives to finally be given a chance," he adds.

He continues: "Many people don't understand the middle-class parliamentarians suddenly favouring commercial space in the Steinlager area, instead of affordable housing, which would actually be in line with the initiative." The SP Stadt Zug also does not understand why car parks are now being built on the plot on the Chamerstrasse. The party is clear: "We will do everything we can to ensure that the referendum is implemented."

The SP Stadt Zug is launching the petition "Affordable housing instead of office space" in the Zug City Council
SP President Rupan Sivaganesan in conversation with a resident                 Photos: zvg

"It’s incomprehensible"
And what do Zug's building cooperatives say about the "standstill" since the adoption of the popular initiative? "The city council should move forward in this regard. Because we need affordable housing now," explained Gewoba Managing Director Esther Keiser in an interview. Implementing the initiative would certainly not be easy. Nevertheless, the city should now propose suitable properties.

"The Familia Zug building cooperative approached the city council back in the summer of 2023 regarding the Steinlager development, and pointed out that the situation had changed following the unexpected adoption of the popular '2,000 flats for Zug's middle class' initiative," explains cooperative president Peter Niederberger. According to the text of the initiative, public bodies or non-profit housing developers should immediately develop municipal properties such as the Steinlager site with affordable flats.

"The city council was reminded that the Familia Zug building cooperative and the W'Alter housing cooperative won the tender in 2019. And that nothing has happened since August 2020," continues Peter Niederberger. The city council was advised to take further steps to realise the Steinlager site in the near future. He added: "It’s incomprehensible why the planning of urgently needed living space on ready-to-build, central and well-located plots has been stalled for four years."

Suspensions of projects could have been prevented
Th Managing Director of Allgemeine Wohnbaugenossenschaft Zug, Hanspeter Käppeli, believes that commissioning a legal opinion to clarify the interpretation of the initiative text was certainly the right thing to do. "In our view, however, such an analysis should have been carried out before the vote. We would even have welcomed it if the city council had submitted a counter-proposal to the initiative to the electorate," he added.This would have  prevented the suspension of their "Herti Süd" project, with around 60 flats, for example.

Hanspeter Käppeli: "We would like to see the three levels of government - federal, cantonal and municipal - better coordinate their housing policies. We realise that they are all pursuing their own housing policies." For example, each of the three levels of government develops its own calculation model to determine the cost-covering rent. The central calculation parameters are also changed again and again in quick succession. This makes management enormously complex. "The impact on long-term financial planning is even more serious," adds Hanspeter Käppeli.

"Zug will remain a place of residence for a young, rich upper class and wealthy older people, while the others will have to look for their homes in other cantons. The acceptance of this initiative shows that the population is aware of this development, and strengthens our commitment to affordable, innovative and alternative forms of housing," admits Susanne Giger from the W'Alter housing cooperative.

The city's options are limited, as there are hardly any sites available. The zones for a proportion of affordable housing are a step in the right direction. Susanne Giger: "But the proportion of affordable flats in the canton and in the city of Zug is far below average compared to other cities." She is certain that the proportion will continue to fall, as flats that are more expensive than average continue to be built. The problem has been underestimated.

Furthermore, planning law processes could delay the swift implementation of the initiative. It would actually be possible to realise 70 to 90 flats on the Steinlager site without delay. But: "With the legitimate goal of a significantly higher utilisation rate, a planning law process is being set in motion that means these flats cannot be expected to be occupied before 2034," says Susanne Giger.

"The city council's concerns were not unfounded"
Upon enquiry, the city's head of construction, Eliane Birchmeier, explains the next steps in the implementation of the housing initiative as follows: "As part of the local planning revision, the City of Zug is also working on the revision of the building regulations. The findings from the legal opinion have been incorporated into the building regulations, and these are now going through the political process and are currently undergoing preliminary consultation in the building and planning commission, while the preliminary review at the canton level is also underway."

So far, nothing has changed for the housing cooperatives. The next steps will primarily involve establishing the new building regulations, moving forward with the development plans and continuing to take housing cooperatives into account.

It turns out that the city council's concerns were not unfounded. "In the past, the city was able to easily agree a quota of up to 20% affordable housing with investors in development plans, and to use this pragmatic regulation to drive the various projects forward. With the acceptance of the initiative, the full speed ahead of the housing construction ‘train’ was stopped," explains Eliane Birchmeier.

Depending on the extent to which investors and owners were affected by the initiative, construction projects were put on hold. "Nevertheless, the building department is in dialogue with the investors concerned in order to avoid jeopardising the planned projects as far as possible," assures the head of construction.