Government wants to stay out of sold Tallinn property, resident dispute
A dispute regarding a seafront property in Tallinn sold off by Riigi Kinnisvara AS (RKAS) last fall has escalated all the way to the top, but no solutions have been discussed or decisions made by the Estonian government due to disagreements within it, leaving the families of two retired border guards facing eviction by its new owner.
The dispute over Neeme 50, a seafront property located in Põhja-Tallinn on the border of its Kopli and Paljassaare neighborhoods, and the fate of its longtime residents reached all the way to the top last fall, when Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) had to report on the matter before the Riigikogu. The matter reached the coalition council and government directly as well, but thus far in vain, as the Reform-Isamaa-SDE government coalition failed to reach a consensus.
Last October, state real estate company RKAS sold the 15-hectare property located at Neeme 50 to AS Landeste for €1.2 million. Three houses located on the property were rented out at the time under active leases, however the sales contract stated that these leases could be terminated with three months' notice. Which is precisely what has now happened.
The local residents themselves have already reached out to the prime minister for help, but in mid-February, they received a response from Gerrit Mäesalu, Kallas' supervisor and director of the Prime Minister's Office, that while Kallas is aware of the problems involving Neeme 50, the prime minister's schedule won't allow for a meeting anytime soon.
Kallas doesn't want the government to deal with the mess created by an accumulation of events from over the last couple of decades; she believes the authorities responsible for making it in the first place should be the ones handling it. She as prime minister requested that Minister of Public Affairs Riina Solman (Isamaa) handle the matter, with RKAS, the Ministry of the Interior and the City of Tallinn likewise involved in finding a solution.
Solman has been on the case since last fall, and over the course of meetings with Landeste and other involved parties that began in November, three options have been devised for providing a compassionate solution to the situation. Two of these would require a government decision, which has yet to be made. The third doesn't need a government decision, but would mean relocating the residents of Neeme 50 elsewhere, to which the tenants won't agree.
One of the solutions requiring a government decision would be a land exchange — an option Landeste had agreed to in principle as well. The other is a buyback of the Neeme 50 property for the state.
No government decision ever came, however, and, having lost patience, Landeste decided it couldn't wait forever and informed the two households who had not yet been sent lease termination notices that their leases would be terminated in three months' time.
"Unfortunately, not a single solution discussed over four months has been realized by now, due to which AS Landeste cannot indefinitely postpone the implementation of its planned business plan," the notice sent to the tenants read.
Landeste representative Erik Plaan told ERR that Solman was informed of the lease terminations at the end of last month as well.
"That as the negotiations started in November haven't led anywhere, we intend to do this," Plaan specified. "As a gesture of goodwill, we had previously promised not to terminate two families' leases during negotiations."
Minister's solutions never added to government agenda
Solman has attempted to push the solutions in question onto the government agenda, but thus far to no avail. The fate of the residents of Neeme 50 have once been discussed during a government cabinet meeting, but even then it wasn't as an official item on the agenda, and as a result, the discussion remained rather brief, Minister of the Interior and Social Democratic Party (SDE) chair Lauri Läänemets recalled.
The first time the public affairs minister attempted to push the agenda was early last December, but it was removed. The cabinet meeting agenda is approved by the prime minister.
Solman noted that included in the materials submitted at the government cabinet meeting on December 5 was utilizing the state's right of preemption, which had been written with a two-month period into the property's sales contract.
"Since this wasn't included in the agenda, then that option expired; the deadline for that solution was December 20," she explained.
After that, she submitted a new option to the cabinet: a land exchange. The land on which the houses are located would be swapped against some other state-owned property; the remaining land would have remained in Landeste's hands. This option required a government decision as well.
This option was doomed to fail, however, as while RKAS had submitted a request to initiate a new detailed plan which would have divided up the property to the City of Tallinn in 2019 already, the city to date has yet to initiate it, and even a government decision wouldn't suffice for such a swap.
"This solution would suit both the residents, who could live out the rest of their lives in the homes they have built, essentially also suits the buyer and, in addition, there would be no need for the state to contribute money as there would be in implementing the right of preemption," the minister explained. "This solution would suit everyone."
The third solution would be to find apartments nearby with RKAS' help, which would then be rented to the residents of Neeme 50 at social housing rates. The tenants themselves, however, won't consent to this.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla