The town of Albinen in the Swiss Canton of Valais is one of the many small Swiss mountain towns threatened with extinction as an increasing number of residents are moving away out of the countryside into the city.
Albinen, located into a gorgeous valley at an altitude of 1,300 metres (4,265 feet) above sea level, is a typical mountain town with its own church and traditional Valais architecture of its many chalets.
According to municipality president Beat Jost the town is characterised by its quietness, phenomenal views, great air quality and many hours of sunshine throughout the year.
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Even though the town is just under 4 miles away from the spa town of Leukerbad and the Canton capital of Sion and the industrial city of Visp are just a 35-minute drive by car, the town has emptied out over the years because of the lack of jobs.
Jost said that in the last few years the municipality saw three families with eight children moving away, forcing them to close the village school.
Nowadays, just 240 people are left in Albinen, among them seven children who have to go by bus to nearby towns to attend school.
To reverse the trend, Jost is now looking for people under the age of 45 to move into one of the many houses in town or to buy ground to build their own house.
A group of young citizens even launched a petition in August – signed by more than half of the eligible voters in town – asking the municipality to offer a cash incentive to those moving into town to reverse the trend of emigration.
The municipality of Albinen addressed the concerns of the citizens and came with a plan for active housing subsidies that include fixed financial contributions to individuals, couples and families moving to Albinen.
According to the initiative, which will be voted upon by the municipal council on 30th November, the benefits are meant for anyone under the age of 45 who wants to build, buy or renovate a home in town.
If the municipal council accepts the plan, each adult over the age of 45 will get 25,000 Swiss Francs (£18,992) with the town also paying 10,000 Swiss Francs (£7,597) for each child.
It means that a couple with two children would get 70,000 Swiss Francs (about $70,000) if they decide to move into town.
There is however some rules which people must follow in order to get the subsidy.
Jost said: ‘Second homes and large residential complexes of investor groups are out of the question.
‘Anyone who moves away again ten years after the start of construction or after buying the house must repay the money.’
Another condition is that the investment amount is at least 200,000 Swiss Francs (£151,925).
To pay for the initiative, the municipality wants to create a fund in which they would pay each year 100,000 Swiss Francs.
According to Thomas Egger, director of the Swiss Working Group for Mountain Areas (SAB), the emptying of villages such as Albinen is a nationwide problem.
He said that mountain communities therefore try to counteract the situation by applying very different measures depending on their possibilities.
Egger mentioned the municipality of Inden in Valais which grants discounts for shopping in the village shop, while the town of Safien in Grisons issues public transport subscriptions for its young people.
Switzerland’s smallest mountain village of Corippo in the Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino has come up with an even more unusual plan to turn the entire village into a giant hotel to save it from extinction as it has only 13 inhabitants left.
Albinen’s municipality president Jost is however sure that the initiative of his town is the right one and it will get accepted by the municipal council.
He said that as a result the entire community would benefit from extra taxes, the village shop by more customers, the local industry through construction contracts and the town’s social clubs by young people who would engage in traditional village life.
Jost said: ‘In a best case scenario, even the village school will reopen.’