An increasing number of apartments in rural areas and small towns in Estonia are being left abandoned, as their owners seek employment overseas, according to a report by Sven Randlaid on the website of ERR, Estonia’s national broadcasting network, citing real estate expert Risto Vähi.
In a conversation with Estonian radio station Vikerraadio, Vähi explained that this is often the case since tenants are difficult to find in these areas. Even when tenants are found, in practice this often involves them living rent-free, and only paying the utility bills for the property in question, Vähi goes on.
“Whilst we don’t have any official statistics, regarding the situation with those workers in rural areas, it is becoming clear that often the family breadwinner moves to Finland first, with the rest of the family following behind. Very often there’s a tendency that such people have no plans to come back in the immediate future if at all, and apartments will remain standing empty” Vähi explained.
Regional newspaper Põhjarannik, from the northeastern region of Estonia, concurred with this view, according to the article. It stated that empty flats were not the sole problem facing residents. For example in the town of Kohtla-Järve, residential houses throughout the town together require upkeep costs of around 7 200 Euros per year. Furthermore in the north-eastern town of Kiviõli, houses have been demolished solely to reduce the housing stock, albeit artificially, according to the article.
Vähi emphasised that these large numbers of vacant properties have been the source of social problems, which need to be resolved. He drew comparisons with the US city of Detroit, which saw a similar decline in population in the second half of the last century, the main cause being unemployment.