Census: Majority of Estonians still live in apartments

Soviet-era housing in Tallinn.
Soviet-era housing in Tallinn. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The average Estonian lives in a home older than themselves and two-thirds of people still live in apartments despite the rising popularity of private houses, data gathered for the latest Census shows. Thousands of households still lack washing facilities.

The average Estonian resident is 42 years old and the majority live in homes that were built 50 years ago, typically Soviet-era apartment blocks known as panel houses, Wednesday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

The Census shows almost 70 percent of people live in apartments and 30 percent in private houses. The majority of Estonia's housing stock was built during the Soviet-era, before 1991.

Since then, new developments have mostly clustered in Tallinn and Tartu. In Ida-Viru County, less than 1 percent of all residential buildings have been built in the last 10 years.

"People of Russian nationality are more likely to live in apartments and more people of Estonian nationality live in private houses. Only 8 percent of people of Russian nationality, but for Estonians this is 36 percent," said Terje Trasberg, Statistics Estonia's lead analyst.

Tallinn's Lasnamäe District. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Thousands of households do not have running water

More than 90 percent of homes have running water, toilets, washing facilities or sauna. "Estonia and Finland are the only countries that designate a sauna as a washing facility," Trasberg said.

But these basics are still a luxury to some

For example, 29,000 households still lack washing facilities and 5,000 of these families have children. 

Almost 50,000 households, 9,000 of which have children, do not have an indoor toilet.

The statistics show the majority of these cases are related to private homes.

"For example, if we look by county, the best technical facilities are in Ida-Viru County, but this is precisely because the majority of people in Ida-Viru County live in apartments," said Trasberg.

Soviet-era apartments need updating

Apartment building. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Tallinn University of Technology Professor Targo Kalamees said Soviet-era apartment buildings are nearing the end of their lifespan and need updating.

"The load-bearing structures are in a normal condition, but the balconies, canopies, and exterior facades are critical. For example, if we insulate the exterior facade, the decay will stop and the usage period of the building will be considerably extended," he told AK.

The professor said there are already examples in Estonia which shows why this process cannot be delayed.

"Today, making the building stock built between the 1960s and 1990s carbon-neutral is as big a challenge as rebuilding the war-ravaged building stock after World War II," he said.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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