Justice chancellor: State, towns should help add elevators to walkups

Apartment building in Tallinn's Mustamäe District.
Apartment building in Tallinn's Mustamäe District. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Noting the high cost of retrofitting, the Chancellor of Justice found that the Estonian state and its local governments should help support the addition of elevators to walk-up apartment buildings. Mustamäe City District Elder Lauri Laats (Center), however, recommends elderly people move to local nursing homes already equipped with elevators.

The Chancellor of Justice was contacted by Aavo Vään, chairperson of the Housing Associations and Urban Property Commission of Mustamäe City District Council, who inquired regarding who should be the one to decide over the retrofitting of elevators in Soviet-era five-story walk-up apartment buildings.

In her response, the chancellor of justice said that apartment owners can make the decision to build an elevator in accordance with the Apartment Ownership and Apartment Associations Act, but acknowledged that retrofitting an elevator into an older building can be very expensive.

"The costs of building an elevator cannot be left to apartment owners alone to bear," a letter issued by the Office of the Chancellor of Justice read. "Thus, both the state and local governments should seek solutions to make older apartment buildings accessible to everyone as well."

Commenting on the justice chancellor's proposal, Laats, the elder of Tallinn's Mustamäe District, said that Mustamäe indeed has quite a lot of five-story walkups, and that their retrofitting with elevators has been discussed at both the city and the state level.

"The city district government with its budget cannot help here; this has to be done in cooperation with the state," he said. "Elevators can already be installed in the framework of Kredex's apartment building renovation aid. If a building doesn't want a complete overhaul and simply wants to install elevators, then indeed, there is no such measure. We should reach an agreement with the state on this one, and the state should introduce such a measure."

Whether such a measure would entail the installation of elevators at a discount or some kind of other conditions, however, Laats would leave up to a working group to figure out.

"I talked to Minister of Economic Affairs Taavi Aas about this last week, and we agreed that we should get together again at the ministry to discuss this, and bring in those officials who handle mobility-related issues," he said.

Mustamäe District officials have already met with various companies who install elevators, most recently with a Spanish company in February. "The cost of an elevator depends on the solution — whether inside the building or outside of it," he noted. "On average, together with installation, it would cost one stairwell €100,000."

Nursing homes a better solution?

"When I talk to people, a pattern clearly emerges that for many elderly people, horizontal movement is possible, but vertical movement, i.e. taking stairs, is difficult for them," Laats said. "The opportunity exists there to install an elevator, however technically speaking, this is fairly difficult."

Another option suggested by Laats was for elderly people to move into dedicated nursing homes already equipped with elevators.

"The state or city could start building nursing homes equipped with all amenities," he said. "This would involve social services and home care services as well. We're talking about rentals that would meet modern requirements."

A new nursing home with 100 apartment units will soon be finished in Mustamäe District.

"We want precisely those people with mobility issues to move in there," Laats said.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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