Dwellings and buildings with dwellings

Occupied and vacant dwellings

737,873 dwellings were counted in the 2021 Population and Housing Census.

Dwellings are categorised as follows: conventional dwellings, collective living quarters, other housing units. Of all the enumerated dwellings, 99.32% (732,836) were conventional dwellings (flats, private houses), 0.51% (3,731) were rooms in hostels or other accommodation premises used for permanent residence, and 0.18% (1,306) were non-dwellings used for habitation.

A dwelling is considered occupied if it has at least one permanent resident. Of all the enumerated conventional dwellings, 557,146 (76.03%) were occupied and 175,690 (23.97%) were vacant (without permanent residents).


According to the 2021 census, there are a total of 266,475 residential buildings. Among these 77.5% (206,529) private houses, 3,1% (8,572) small residential buildings with two flats (row houses, semi-detached houses) and 18% (47,847) residential buildings with three or more flats.

The figure below shows the number of private houses and flats in Estonia by year of construction, starting with the period before 1919 up to the period of 2012 or later. The number of private houses built has been relatively stable over time, with 10,000 to 30,000 private houses completed in each decade. The biggest number of private houses were built in the time before 1919, but today this group also has the biggest share of vacant dwellings.

The data indicate that the construction of blocks of flats was the most popular in the period 1961–1990, that is, in the middle and end years of the Soviet era, with 90,000 to 120,000 flats completed per decade. In the other decades, the number of flats built has been significantly smaller: less than 30,000 flats per decade before 1961 and around 30,000 flats per decade after 1990.

Occupied conventional dwellings

27.7% (154,426) of occupied conventional dwellings are private houses and 69.8% (389,101) of occupied dwellings are in blocks of flats (buildings with three or more flats).

Compared to the 2011 and 2000 censuses, there has been a rise in the share of private houses among occupied conventional dwellings (it was 26% in 2011 and 24% in 2000) and a fall in the share of dwellings in blocks of flats (74% in 2011 and 75% in 2000). Thus, it seems that it has become more popular among Estonian residents to live in a private house, while slightly fewer people live in residential buildings with multiple flats.

The total area of dwellings has also increased. The total area of occupied dwellings is 38,970,750 square metres and the total area of vacant (unoccupied) dwellings is 175,690  square metres. Compared to 2011, the total area of occupied dwellings in Estonia has increased by 530,488 square metres – this means a rise of 1.38%. 

In blocks of flats, the biggest shares are held by dwellings sized 40–49 sq. m with two rooms and dwellings sized 60–69 sq. m with three rooms. Among private houses, the biggest share have five or more rooms and an area of 150 sq. m or more.

In private houses, the area per inhabitant has increased: it was 31.4 sq. m in 2000, 42.6 sq. m in 2011, and 43.9 sq. m in 2021. The area per inhabitant in residential buildings with three or more flats has decreased from 24.8 sq. m in 2011 to 23.8 sq. m in 2021. It means that, compared to the previous census, private houses are bigger, on average, and flats are smaller.

The total number of rooms is higher than in 2000 but slightly lower than in 2011. There has been a similar decrease in the average number of rooms per inhabitant – it was 1.21 in 2021.

Presence of comfort characteristics in occupied dwellings 

The availability of comfort characteristics has improved in conventional dwellings (both in occupied and vacant dwellings): there are now more dwellings with a water supply system, with bathing facilities, with toilet facilities, and with central heating.

The biggest increase has occurred in the number of dwellings that have toilet facilities (including only flush toilets, not dry toilets), which has risen by 198,277 compared to 2000 and by 89,151 compared to 2011. Among occupied dwellings, the number of those with toilet facilities has increased by 100,546 compared to 2000 and by 25,295 compared to 2011.

Among occupied dwellings, the second-biggest increase compared to 2011 has occurred in the number of dwellings with bathing facilities – up by 11,335. There has been a similar rise in the number of dwellings with central heating (up by 11,597). It should be mentioned that Estonia and Finland are the only countries where the existence of a sauna is taken into account as bathing facilities.

The number of occupied dwellings with a water supply system (piped water) has increased by 56,881 compared to 2000. But the growth has slowed down as the number of dwellings with water supply grew by only 3,944 compared to the 2011 census.

This could be due to the fact that 94.7% of dwellings already had a water supply system by the time of the previous census. Based on the 2021 census, 93.3% of dwellings have a water supply system, 93.1% of dwellings have bathing facilities, 91.1% of dwellings have toilet facilities, and 68.5% of dwellings have central heating.

When we compare the share of occupied dwellings with each comfort characteristic over time, the biggest increase has again occurred in the share of dwellings with toilet facilities (75.7% in 2000, 88.5% in 2011, 91.1% in 2021), followed by dwellings with water supply (86.1% in 2000, 94.7% in 2011, 93.3% in 2021), dwellings with bathing facilities (88.7% in 2000, 93.1% in 2011, 93.1% in 2021) and dwellings with central heating (63% in 2000, 67.9% in 2011, 68.5% in 2021).

For comparison, a significantly lower share of vacant dwellings have comfort characteristics (which makes sense): 77.78% of vacant dwellings have water supply, 76.92% have bathing facilities, 50.74% have central heating and less than a half (47.03%) have a flush toilet. Thus, the share of dwellings with comfort characteristics is higher among occupied dwellings by 15–18 percentage points in each of these categories.