Ukrainian refugees move out of Tallinn apartment blocks by Friday deadline
Ukrainian refugees have moved out of two Tallinn apartment blocks at the state's order, caught between areas of responsibility relating to the Social Insurance Board (SKA), the Ministry of Social Affairs, the state's real estate company, the City of Tallinn, and the property management company which oversaw their accommodation, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Friday.
Most of the families affected will find alternative living arrangements, AK reported, though this may take several weeks, while some have opted to live on a cruise ship set aside for that purpose last year, and a few are even leaving Estonia.
Since SKA does not deal with real estate, it has been to find an options for signing rental agreements with refugees fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, while the state cited the high rental costs – including the utility bills.
The scene show by AK at one of the two apartment blocks Friday, the deadline for moving out, saw apartment doors taped up, belongings removed, empty rooms and small maintenance issues which needed dealing with.
The state real estate agency, the RKIK, was ready to extend the lease, a spokesperson told AK, but the decision was down to the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Social Insurance Board (SKA).
SKA's crisis management department team leader Kirill Badikin said: "SKA and the Ministry of Social Affairs have considered the matter, and the decision is that the contract will expire on March 31 and will not be extended."
In any case, the state has alternative living spaces available, he added.
"As of today, we have 1,500 places available for short-term accommodation, this is one of the reasons why this contract is not extended," Badikin said.
The state provides accommodation to arrivals fleeing the war in Ukraine on a short-term basis only, up to four months under the law, after which people have to make their own accommodation arrangements, AK reported.
The RKIK will be selling off the apartment blocks, on Mäepealse tänav, in the Mustamäe district of the capital, and on Kopli (pictured), in the neighborhood of the same name, with the departure of the refugees, Heilika Reivart, head of the authority's infrastructure department, told AK.
Maarjo Mändma, Deputy Secretary General at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that "In fact, [welfare services company managing the properties] AS Hoolekandeteenused's calculations were came to the same as those of RKIK," adding that managing the rentals "requires a very major responsibility towards the residents of the buildings, and in the same way, these residents would have a legitimate expectation and demand from the property owner for a high-quality living space."
Furthermore, major investments would have been required to convert the properties into rental apartments, Mändma said, adding the changed rental market situation rendered this non-viable.
Utility bills were paid by the Estonian state, and cost over €300,000 plus VAT for the two apartment blocks, in total, per month.
So far, 85 of the 100 families who had been housed in the two buildings have either found new accommodation in Tallinn or environs, eight are relocating to the Isabelle, a cruise ship moored in Tallinn harbor which has been home to Ukrainian refugees since early on in the current war, and seven have opted to leave Estonia.
Kirill Badikin told AK that several of these families have already signed rental agreements, adding ti will take "several weeks" until they can move in.
As reported by ERR News, Tallinn city authorities expressed bafflement at the relocation, coming as it does mid-way through the school year and even as the property management company were not opposed to continuing with the status quo.
Social Protection Minister Signe Riisalo (Reform) stated that contracts will not be extended as refugees need to be treated "equally".
Just over 900 people currently live on the Isabelle, AK reported.
From Friday, AK said, the no lights would be on in the Mäepealse building, after those who had been housed there moved out.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'