©Dr. Stefan Wittwer

Prof. Dr. David Kaufmann | Spatial Development and Urban Policy

«Densifying Switzerland»: Acceptance and public support for densification projects in Swiss cities

The SNF-funded research project «Densifying Switzerland» examines factors that affect the acceptance and local democratic support for densification projects in all 162 Swiss cities.

Densification is the central paradigm of the current revisions of the Swiss Spatial Planning Act.

There is a broad public and scholarly consensus that higher densities in metropolitan regions are desirable because it can contribute to the protection of undeveloped land, and has the potential to safeguard housing affordability. As a result, policymakers in the Global North have begun to formulate densification and upzoning policies that aim to enhance optimal and intensive land use. However, these densification projects tend to provoke (local) opposition, and they spark (local) public debates. Consequently, lacking public acceptance contributes significantly to slow rates of urban densification and urban housing production. Ensuring public acceptance and support for densification is therefore crucial for densifying our metropolitan regions. In this research project, we study factors that could explain the acceptance and support for densification in Switzerland.

We apply a mixed-method research design to systematically study acceptance and support for densification in all 162 Swiss statistical cities (ten cities with more than 50’000 inhabitants and 152 small and medium-sized towns with between 5’000-50’000 inhabitants). The research project integrates experimental survey research as well as the statistical analysis of observational data on real-world densification projects at local ballots. The survey will draw on a representative sample from the 162 Swiss statistical cities to examine the acceptance of different densification scenarios. The observational analysis will be based on an intense data collection effort that includes all local ballots about densification projects in the 162 Swiss statistical cities between June 2002 and the end 2020.

The focus lies on individual and project-related factors as well as political instruments such as ancillary planning policies (such as inclusionary zoning, rent control, or value capture) and participatory instruments. The latter two allow us to examine whether local governments and local planners have options at their disposal to enhance the democratic and societal acceptance of densification.

We hence aim at producing robust scientific findings that help (Swiss) spatial planning to better understand the needs and demands of the public with regard to densification. The research project should thus contribute to the overall goal of densification of metropolitan regions and agglomerations in Switzerland.


Prof. Dr. David Kaufmann


Dr. Stefan Wittwer


SNSF Swiss National Science Foundation

Project timeframe