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Census: More households in Estonia living in single-family homes

Tartu's Supilinn is filled predominantly with old wooden houses, but is also home to recently built houses as well.
Tartu's Supilinn is filled predominantly with old wooden houses, but is also home to recently built houses as well. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

On average, people's homes in Estonia are older than they are, and while apartments, rowhomes and semi-detached houses still account for by far the most homes, the number of households living in single-family homes has increased in the past ten years as well, data from the 2021 Population and Housing Census reveals.

"We have already released two batches of data — on households and on dwellings," Statistics Estonia lead analyst Terje Trasberg said in a press release. "We have now combined the two and analyzed the results. This will give us a more detailed understanding of where, with whom and how people live in Estonia."

Of the more than half a million households in Estonia, a total of 154,422, or 27.5 percent — accounting for 390,855 people, or 29.3 percent of the country's total population — live in a private house, or single-family home. Compared with the 2011 census, the share of households living in single-family homes increased by 0.7 percentage points.

Apartments, including rowhomes and semi-detached houses, meanwhile, are home to 67.9 percent of Estonian residents.

The average household living in a single-family home includes 2.53 members, while the average household living in an apartment consists of 2.28 people.

Another 1.6 percent of the population lives in collective living quarters, including care homes and dormitories, and 1.2 percent in other housing units or non-residential buildings.

On the individual, not household, level, 689,204 people, or more than half of Estonia's population, live in an apartment in a city.

Dwelling type is strongly correlated with a person's age and life stage, Statistics Estonia said, noting that the share of young people living in single-family homes falls and the proportion of those living in an apartment rises sharply upon an individual reaching adulthood as young people move to study and live in cities. There is also a slight increase in the number of persons living in other dwellings, likely due to people moving into dormitories.

After age 35, the share of people living in single-family homes increases for a while, then starts to decrease again after the age of 50. Evident at the older end of the age range on the graph is a sharp increase in the proportion of people living in collective living quarters, reaching 8 percent. This is attributable primarily to the increase in the share of people living in care homes.

Average home in Estonia older than average person

There are 557,146 occupied conventional dwellings in Estonia, located in more than 180,000 buildings. The average building — i.e. single-family home or apartment building — was built in 1965. The average dwelling, meanwhile, dates back to 1972. For comparison, the average Estonian was born in 1979, indicating that the average inhabitant's home is older than they are.

The majority of people in Estonia still reside in Soviet-era buildings.

7 of 10 in owner-occupancy homes

According to census results, 71.9 percent of Estonia's population lives in a home owned by a member of their household; another 18.3 percent rent.

Single-member households are least likely to own a home, which is the main reason why rental accommodations are most often occupied by people living alone, Statistics Estonia said.

The highest proportion of home owner-occupiers is found in Ida-Viru County, where 74.9 percent of people live in property owned by themselves or another member of their household.

"This result is as expected, given that there are mainly older apartment buildings and an older-than-average population in Ida-Viru County and emigration exceeds immigration, but it is the inflow of new inhabitants that is one of the main influenced on the rental market," Trasberg said.

She added that, somewhat surprisingly, Viljandi County lies at the other extreme, with the lowest proportion of people — 69 percent — living in household-owned homes.

Viewed separately, the share of owner-occupancy is even lower in Tallinn and Tartu, at 68.6 and 67.8 percent, respectively.

Tens of thousands of homes without bathing, toilet facilities

According to the 2021 census, 71 percent of the Estonian population lives in homes with central heating. Statistics Estonia defines a home or dwelling as being centrally heated if heating is provided either from a community heating center or from an installation built in the building or conventional dwelling, without regard to the source of energy.

Overall, 94 percent of Estonia's population have access in their home to a water supply system, i.e. a minimum of cold water piped into their dwelling and a water tap. 93 percent of the population, meanwhile, have access in their home to bathing facilities, and 92 percent to toilet facilities.

For the purposes of the census, a home was considered as having bathing facilities if it was equipped with a bath or shower connected to a water supply network and a sewage disposal system, including a collection tank. Bathing facilities were also recorded as available if a home included a sauna — including a sauna located outside of the main dwelling in a separate building on the same property. Toilet facilities were defined as a flush toilet connected to a water supply network and a sewage disposal system, including a collection tank.

In absolute terms, as of the census moment on the last day of 2021, there were nearly 27,000 households in Estonia without bathing facilities in their home, including around 5,000 households with minor children. 49,000 households in Estonia also lived in homes without toilet facilities, including 9,000 with minors.

Click here for a glossary of terms used in Estonia's 2021 census and results.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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