Estonia mapping empty houses, apartments for refugees

Apartments in Tallinn.
Apartments in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Empty houses and apartments are being mapped by the state as potential accommodation for Ukrainian refugees. The state is also looking to use container or modular housing.

So far, 32,000 refugees have arrived in Estonia and approximately 5,000 people are being provided with temporary accommodation. In the future, they will need somewhere to live long-term.

The supplementary budget, agreed upon yesterday, accounts for 50,000 refugees arriving in Estonia. But no one knows how many homes will be needed. This is also complicated by the arrival of the summer season and arriving tourists.

The search started at the beginning of March, but free space has halved since then and some of those spaces will have been taken by refugees already.

"A large number of war refugees have actually come here on their own. They live somewhere in communities with their relatives or employers. And they have certainly used these properties," said Maarjo Mändmaa, secretary general of the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Finding accommodation on the private market is difficult due to the refugees' financial situation. The ministry said there are only around 500 rental properties across the country being rented for 400 or less.

NGOs are mapping dwellings but most of these will be used for temporary accommodation. The state is now looking for places that could be used after light renovation. "These could be dormitories, nursing homes," said Mändmaa, adding the state is constantly on the lookout for more housing.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has also mapped 26,000 properties with low electricity usage which suggests they are not in continuous use.

"Currently, in cooperation with local governments, we first look at the addresses that are close to communities so that there are jobs and services nearby. And then we turn to the owners to find out what condition these properties are in. And then we talk about the possibility of renting to refugees if necessary," said Mändmaa.

Manufacturers of container and modular houses have also been contacted to see how much they would cost and potential delivery times.

Editor: Helen Wright

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