In 2019, the village of Gambarogno in Ticino offered abandoned houses known as “rustici” to anyone prepared to renovate them for 1 franc. Last week, the scheme ended without anyone taking up the offer.
The scheme was inspired by similar schemes in Italy. However the Swiss offer ran into challenges. Some were practical and others administrative.
While some rustici are supplied with water, there is no electricity and gas and they are located far from roads and public transport. Getting there requires 45 minutes of walking.
The final nail in the coffin was a recent decision by the Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE) to not allow the houses to be rebuilt. Thomas Kappeler, head of ARE told the newspaper Blick that they saw the bad state of the buildings on the satellite images and decided against approving the plan. The project has been blocked on spatial planning grounds rather than withholding building permission.
Plans to rebuild the village have been around since 1970. But funding has never been found to finance the work.
The possibility of challenging the ARE decision at the Federal Tribunal remains. But the paperwork and costs are likely to rise significantly before they can ever be put on the market again for 1 franc.