Year after year, Southeastern Estonia's population remains on the decline, and despite this, the region is largely faced with a lack of ideas on how to encourage people to stay. One positive exception is the Setomaa region, where Setomaa Municipality is teaming up with the state for the fifth year in a row to provide home improvement support to young families.
Jaanus Viskar, the bassist for the Seto-Estonian folk rock band Zetod, bought his family a farm in Setomaa seven years ago which, like much local real estate, needed a lot of work before they could move in, reported ETV news broadcast Aktuaalne kaamera.
"We are actually such a lucky family that it has even helped us twice," Viskar said of the municipality's home improvement support program. "The first time, in 2016, we received funding for a new wood-burning oven and a new chimney, which are the most important elements of a house for me, ensuring that it is warm. Speaking of warmth, the second time, in 2019, we received support for insulating the house."
The Young People to Setomaa support program is open to all Setomaa residents ages 21-40. The support scheme is built on the principle that the state covers one third, the local government the second third, and the family itself the final third of the cost of a home improvement project. This year, the state and the local government are supporting the program with a combined €60,000.
"What typically stops young people from coming here is the fact that the houses are run down and need serious renovations," said Ulvi Oper, development specialist for Setomaa Municipality. "If I have a household, a family and children, there are enough expenses as it is going everywhere else. So this municipal support for the reconstruction or renovation of a house is a very big help on top of everything else."
Over the past four years, nearly 50 families have been able to improve their homes with the help of this support program.
While the municipality admits that this support will not be able to stop the global trend of urbanization, it is nonetheless a major step in slowing down the exodus.
"We can't quite stabilize it, but we have gained more residents," Oper highlighted. "Thanks to the Young People to Setomaa program, residents have made the decision not to move to the city."
"This is still a very big help financially, because you can reduce your investment into it by 66.6 percent," Viskar stressed. "For a young family living out here in the periphery, this is a very big help."
Applications for the Young People to Setomaa program are open through February 7. Click here (link in Estonian) for more information.
Editor: Aili Vahtla