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Developments of flats for expats blight local communities

Left-wing officials claim that flats adapted specially for use by expats could have a deleterious effect on the communities where they are set up.
This article in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper mentioned the success story of Anja Graf, who, having set up a model agency while only 21, went on to buy a building on Militärstrasse to house them all.
Today, Graf’s Vision Apartments company is among the largest provider of furnished flats with no fewer than 600 of them spread across the city. In addition to their having TV and WLAN, they all have their beds changed once a week and the flat is cleaned. One-room flats equipped like this and with the aforementioned services come from CHF 1,780 per month, though the price can rise to CHF 9,000 for a 5-room apartment. In fact, even villas are available from CHF 30,000 a month.
The idea is a perfect solution for those people coming to work in Zurich for a six-month period on some project or other and then returning home, as Alain Gozzer, the spokesman for Vision Apartments confirmed. “It saves tenants so much bother by providing so many facilities at the same time and in many cases it is the tenants’ employers who pay for the flats, not the occupants themselves,” he said.
Since starting her business, Graf has gone on to expand to Lausanne, Berlin, Vienna and Warsaw, too. What is more, while her turnover in 2012 amounted to CHF 16.1 million, in 2015 it had risen to CHF 27 million. Her current plans include more apartments in Geneva and Basel. Neither is she, of course, the only provider of such services in Zurich, a further 12 can be found on an internet search. These include the Zug-based Swiss Boarding House company, which lets out some 60 flats in Zurich, and PABS Residences, which provides luxury apartments with 5-star service.
One of Vision Apartments main competitors is the Apartments Swiss Star AG company, which was set up in 2004 and owns some 700 studio flats, with more in the pipeline. The company’s managing director, Shahin Ardabili, says he is aiming for a portfolio of some 2,000 properties on his books.
However, Niklaus Scherr, a member of the Alternative Left (AL) party and councillor who represents an area of Zurich where many of the flats offered by the aforementioned companies are available, is somewhat alarmed at the extent to which these companies are buying up property there (in district 4 for example). One reason for this is that people who ran shops from them have been forced out, with a former stationer’s converted to a reception area for the property company. Now it is apparent a bar is to close down for similar reasons.
It was as far back as 2009 that Scherr tried to act against the proliferation of all these business apartments and such like, though to little avail. What concerns him is the local communities are being blighted by them all and their local character lost. Walter Angst, the spokesman of the Zurich Tenants’ Association, who is also a member of AL party, agrees and equally fears for the communities.
Less concerned is Michael Baumer, president of the Building Zoning Committee and a member of the FDP party, who said that no statistics were available which indicated that there were any problems.
For her part, Anna Schindler, the director of City Development, denied such flats had had a deleterious effect on the local communities and felt there was no need to act in any way, though she said she would keep an eye on it all.

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