Statistics: Almost a quarter of dwellings unoccupied, census data shows

Newer and older apartment buildings in Tartu (photo is illustrative).
Newer and older apartment buildings in Tartu (photo is illustrative). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

There are now number of private houses versus apartments in Estonia has risen by 14 percent in the past decade, state agency Statistics Estonia reports, basing its information on the December 2021 census. A total of 24 percent of all dwellings in Estonia are classified as vacant, significantly up on a decade earlier, the agency says.

Terje Trasberg, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, said: "These numbers suggest that people have been acquiring, for instance, summer-houses and other properties which they do not constantly inhabit. Dwelling-places that have already been completed according to the building register but have not yet been inhabited are also included in the figures."

737,873 dwellings were counted in the 2021 Population and Housing Census, based on the building register, meaning 7,793 new dwellings were built since the previous census, a decade earlier.

However, that figure is 1,000 fewer than in the previous ten years (i.e. close to 9,000 new dwellings were erected 2001–2011).

At the point at which the census was taken, December 31 2021, there were 737,873 dwellings counted across Estonia, including private houses and apartment blocks, collective living quarters and other housing units.

Of these, 557,146 (76 percent) were occupied, i.e. contained at least one permanent resident, and the remaining 24 percent (175,690) were without permanent residents. The share of the latter has risen in the past 20 years. In 2001, it stood at 13 percent, in 2011, 16 percent.

Liina Osila, Population and Housing Census project manager at Statistics Estonia, noted that compared with the previous census, the absolute number of dwellings with permanent residents in Estonia has however risen by 2.2 percent.

She said: "In general, the quality of people's living spaces in Estonia has certainly improved. The number of dwellings with a water supply system, bathing facilities, toilet facilities, as well as with central heating has increased. Living in a private house has become increasingly popular."

The number of households with a water supply system has grown, to 93.3 percent, and the same can be said of those with indoor flush toilet facilities (91.1 percent), and with central heating (68 percent) (N.B. this would include rural properties which can often be further away from mains water etc.).

2021 Census dwellings data breakdown

  • Number of residential buildings in Estonia: 266,475, of which 77.5 percent(206,529) are single-family dwellings, 18 percent (47, 847) are apartment blocks, 3.2 percent are semi-detached and the remaining 1.3 percent (3,527) were non-residential buildings which nonetheless had space for at least one resident.
  • The total area of occupied dwellings is came to 38,970,750 sq m – a rise of 1.38 percent (530,488 sq m) compared with 2011. The total area of vacant (unoccupied) dwellings stood at 10,689, 971 sq m.
  • Across all types of dwellings (private houses, blocks of flats), the area per inhabitant has, on average, fallen slightly compared with 2011: From 30.5 sq m in 2011 to 30.1 sq m in 2021.
  • A fall also occurred in the average number of rooms per inhabitant, from 1.24 in the 2011 census, to 1.21 in 2021.
  • Rae municipality, near Tallinn, has the highest number of inhabitants per occupied dwelling (3.1), while the number is lowest in Sillamäe, Ida-Viru County (1.95).
  • The largest dwellings by area on average are to be found in Kiili municipality, near Tallinn, and the smallest again in Sillamäe.
  • Apartment blocks are largest in Narva – not only is the largest block, with 360 apartments, located in the eastern Estonian town, but also the average number of apartments per building (64) is higher than anywhere else in the country.
  • The smallest apartment buildings are on the island of Hiiumaa, (9.05 apartments per block on average).
  • One municipality in Estonia – Ruhnu island – contains no apartment blocks (the island's total population stands at fewer than 100 – ed.).
  • 389,101 (nearly 69 percent) of the dwellings with permanent residents are in apartment blocks (defined as buildings with three or more flats), 27.7 percent (154,426) consist of private houses, 1.6 percent (8,736) in semi-detached houses and 0.9 percent (4,883) are to be found in non-residential buildings.
  • 17,167 new buildings with conventional dwellings have been added to the dwelling stock since the previous census (i.e. constructed no earlier than 2012). 82.1 percent of these were private houses, 11.2 percent apartment blocks, 6 percent semi-detached houses and 0.7 percent non-residential buildings.
  • By year of construction, the largest proportion of occupied dwellings is found in buildings completed in 1961.
  • Trasberg said: "Since apartment blocks contain more dwellings, there has been a larger increase in here: Of the dwellings added in the last ten years, 29.8 percent were in private houses and 64.4 percent in apartment blocks."

The data reported is based on the 2021 census and has been reported via the statistical database, Statistics Estonia says.

More data is to be reported in November.

More information is also available here, here and here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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