20 per cent. This is the ceiling fixed by the initiative "To put a stop to the invasive spread of second homes". Second homes may no longer exceed 20% of the residencies in a commune [municipality]. The initiative was born from the fact that in numerous Swiss communes, in particular those found in the mountains, the countryside was being destroyed by the excessive construction of second homes. Fondation Franz Weber (FFW) and Helvetia Nostra wanted to put an end to these new buildings, left empty with the blinds shut, and the expansion of construction projects increasing prices to such a point that locals were being forced to leave their own villages as they could no longer afford homes.
On 11 March 2012, the Swiss voted in favour of the Second Home Initiative, with 50.6% of 'yes' votes, and 13.5 cantons accepting it. The article 75a was therefore added to the Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation.
Article 75a (New) Second Homes
1 No more than 20 per cent of the total stock of residential units and the gross residential floor area in any commune may be used as second homes.
2 The law shall require communes to publish their first home percentage plan and a detailed report on its implementation every year.
On 22 August 2012, the Federal Council adopted an order on Second Homes, entered into force on 1 January 2013. This Order aims to determine provisional answers to the urgent questions relating to the adoption of the new constitutional article before a formal implementation law is adopted by Parliament. It has failed in this regard. This order is notably accompanied by an annex listing the communes exceeding the limit of 20 per cent of second homes.
The order on Second Homes is being replaced by a law on Second Homes, which federal councils enacted on 20 March 2015. After intense negotiations, Helvetia Nostra was able to broker a compromise at the last minute, meaning that environmental and conservation organisations could dispense with a referendum. The law on Second Homes is expected to come into force on 1 January 2016.