Gabriela Debrunner

PhD Student

Political urbanism and sustainable spatial development

+41 31 631 88 38
Postal Address
University of Bern
Institute of Geography
Hallerstrasse 12
CH-3012 Bern

Gabriela Debrunner has been employed as a PhD student and research assistant at the Institute of Geography at the University of Bern since November 2017. Her research addresses the challenges of pursuing social acceptance of densification processes in Swiss municipalities. In addition to the institutional analysis of planning law and housing policy aspects (with a focus on property rights), her dissertation focuses in particular on questions of social justice and sustainability in housing (see summary dissertation). 

Within the research group, Gabriela Debrunner represents the research field Housing Policy.

Gabriela Debrunner is also a qualified geography teacher at high school level. As a teaching assistant, she supervises courses (e.g. human geography exercises) as well as theses at bachelor's and master's level. If you are interested and have questions about her research or writing a thesis in her research field, please contact her by mail or telephone. 

Higher Education
Since 11/2017 University of Bern, PhD and scientific employee

Research focus of the dissertation project: How does housing remain affordable in a densifying city? Local Governance of Densification for Sustainable Housing Development and -Affordability in Cities

05/2018-11/2018 University of Zürich, CAS Urban Management

Further education in urban governance, spatial economics and urban planning

09/2013- 07/2016 University of Applied Sciences in Bern, Department of Education

Teaching Diploma in Geography (Gymnasium)

09/2013-09/2015 University of Bern, Master of Science in Geography
01/2014-06/2014 University of Stockholm, Department of Human Geography

Exchange semester as Erasmus student 

Working Experience
International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP), Copenhagen 

Employee "Affordable housing for all"

Center for Regional Economic Development (CRED), University of Bern

Project acquisition

Gymnasium Münchenbuchsee (BE), Kirchenfeld (BE) and Frauenfeld (TG)

High school teacher in Geography (substitute teacher)

Regional Planning Zurich (RZU)

Research fellow and assistant 

Swiss Association for the Alpine Region (SAB) in Berne

Research fellow 

Canton of Thurgau, Migration Department

Specialist employee migration

City of Winterthur, Department of spatial planning and mobility management, Internship

Trainee in urban planning

  • Governance of densification as current challenge for planning and policy-making
  • Institutional analysis of socio-ecological systems
  • Housing and land-use planning policy
  • Right to housing vs. Housing as a commodity
  • Socio-economic development of cities
  • Social justice, -inclusion and –stability in cities
  • Gentrification, social exclusion and segregation processes in cities
  • Case study synthesis methodologies

Debrunner, G. (2020): «Wir müssen Verdichtung gezielter steuern», In: Mieten + Wohnen, Nr. 4 September 2020, 10-12.

Debrunner, G., T. Hartmann (2020): Strategic use of land policy instruments for affordable housing. Coping with social challenges under scarce land conditions in Swiss cities, 99. 

Debrunner, G., A. Hengstermann, J-D. Gerber (2020): Die Wohnungsfrage ist eine Bodenfrage: Bodenpolitische Instrumente zur Sicherstellung des preisgünstigen Wohnraums im Bestand in Schweizer Städten, In: Schönig, B.; Vollmer, L. (Hrsg.), Wohnungsfragen ohne Ende?!, Sammelband Universität Weimar: transcript Verlag 58-76.

Debrunner, G., A. Hengstermann, J-D. Gerber (2020): The Business of Densification. Distribution of Power, Wealth and Inequality in Swiss Policy Making, Town Planning Review, 91(3), 259-281.

Debrunner, G., J-D. Gerber (2020): The Commodification of Temporary Housing. [in review]

Debrunner, G., A. Jonkman, J.D. Gerber (2020): Planning for social sustainabilty - Explaining the mechanisms of social exclusion in large-scale densification projects in Swiss cities. [in review]

Debrunner, G. (2019): Conference Report. Preparing for climate change in the planned and unplanned city: the 13th Annual Conference of Planning, Law, and Property Rights, College Station, Texas, USA, 18-22 February 2019.

Debrunner, G. (2018): Zwischennutzung als neue Wohnform für einkommensschwache Wohnungssuchende in Schweizer Städten. GeoAgenda. Ausgabe 3/2018, 23-25. 

Debrunner, G. in Soukup, M. (2017): Das Leiden der Mietnomaden. Tages-Anzeiger vom 08. Juni 2017, p.9.

Widmer, B.; W. Späth; G. Debrunner (2016): RZU- Erfahrungsaustauschprozess zur Zentrumsentwicklung. Dokumentation. p.1-15. 

  • High school teacher in «Geography» (level Sek II)
  • Tutorials in Humangeography I, Urban & Regional Planning (only autumn semester; Coordination)
  • Political Ecology (only spring semester; Assistance)
  • Consulting of Bachelor- and Master Theses
  • Colloquium "Urbang Planning and Development"
  • Field Course to Dortmund/Bonn (spring semester 2018; Assistance)
  • Field Excursion to Biel in Cooperation with different Gymnasia in the Region of Bern (Organisation)

Debrunner, G. (2020): Strategic use of land policy instruments for affordable housing in Swiss cities, PLPR Conference, Usti nad Labem, February 2020.

Debrunner, G. (2020): Does the "right-to-housing" really exist? The Trade-Offs between the Three Sustainability Dimensions in Densification of Swiss Urban Rental Housing Stocks, PLPR Conference, Usti nad Labem, February 2020.

Debrunner, G. (2019): Kann Verdichtung sozial sein? Präsentation im Forum Universität und Gesellschaft zum Thema Verdichtung als Chance. 11. September 2019. Bern. Siehe Vortrag unter:

Debrunner, G. (2019): Does affordable densification exist? The role of local land policy when aiming for housing affordability in densifying city areas in Switzerland. AESOP Conference. July, 11th 2019. Venice.

Debrunner, G. (2019): The Business of Densification. An analysis of the negotiation process in the formulation of densification policy objectives with a focus on the social sustainability dimension in housing in Switzerland. PLPR Conference. Texas A & M University. February, 22nd 2019.

Debrunner, G (2019): ResiDENSE – Governance of Densification for Sustainable Housing Development in Swiss Cities. PLPR Conference – PhD Workshop. February 2019.

Debrunner, G. (2018): The Commodification of Interim Housing. The Case of Zurich, Switzerland. AESOP Conference, Gothenburg. July 11th, 2018.

Debrunner, G. (2018): The New Business of Interim Housing - Toward a profit-oriented and owner-initiated coping-strategy to deal with growing land scarcity in cities - The Case of Zurich, Switzerland"; 12th PLPR Conference, February 2018, Novi Sad, Serbia. 

Debrunner, G. (2018): Governance of Inner-City Housing Densification Projects for the Sustainable Development of the Housing Resource in Urban Neighborhoods"; PhD Workshop at 12th PLPR Conference, February 2018, Novi Sad, Serbia.