Housing arrangements

The number of people living in private houses has increased slightly

Of the more than half a million households in Estonia, 154,422, or 27.5%, live in a private house. These households comprise 390,855 people or 29.3% of Estonia’s total population. Compared with 2011, the share of households living in private houses has increased by 0.7 percentage points. Flats, including terraced houses and semi-detached houses, are home to 70.8% of households, i.e. 67.9% of people. 1.6% of the population reside in collective living quarters (care homes, dormitories) and 1.2% in other dwellings.

The highest proportion of households living in private houses is found in Hiiu county (63.5%) and the lowest in Ida-Viru county (10.8%), while the opposite is true for flats. In Harju county, the largest county in Estonia, 17% of households live in private houses and 81.1% in flats. In Tallinn, the corresponding figures are 6.9% and 90.9%. In general, the distribution of the population between private houses and blocks of flats is as expected: the share of households living in private houses is highest in rural settlement regions (57.9%), followed by town settlement regions (42.8%) and finally city settlement regions (11%).

Two out of three households live in dwellings they own

68.1% of households live in a dwelling owned by one of the household members. Across the whole population, 71.9% of people live in a dwelling owned by a member of their household. The share of people renting a dwelling is 18.3%. In terms of household structures, two-or-more-family households, i.e. households that are also the largest on average, for instance a family with grandparents, are the most likely to live in properties owned by one of the household members. One-person households are the least likely to own their dwelling, and this is the main reason why rented accommodations are most often occupied by people living alone. Of those who live alone, 25.9% are renting and 55.5% own their place of residence. 66% of lone mother and 68.8% of lone father households live in their own dwelling.

Average area per inhabitant has not changed

Census figures show that people in Estonia live on nearly 39 million square meters – an average of 30.1 m2 per person, unchanged from the previous census. Inhabitants of Hiiu county have the most living space per person (38.9 m2), while people residing in Ida-Viru county have the least (26.9 m2).

Average living space per capita goes up year by year as people age but falls somewhat once they reach their thirties. This is mainly due to the addition of children to the family, which increases the number of family members and reduces the square meters available per person. After the age of 50, when children have left home, living space per person goes up. Predictably, there is less housing space per inhabitant in city settlement regions than in rural areas or in smaller towns.

The concentration of Estonians in the countryside and in private dwellings is higher than that of other nationalities, and this is also reflected in the housing statistics. On average, Estonians have 31.7 m2, Russians 25.9 m2, and other ethnic nationalities 28.6 m2 of living space available per person. With increasing age, the difference between the average living area of Estonians and that of Russians also increases, which might be explained by the fact that there are proportionally more older Estonians than Russians living in the countryside, i.e. on larger areas.

People living alone naturally have the most housing space per person, as they do not have to share a kitchen or bathroom with others. The average number of square metres per household (60) remains fairly stable across all age groups. As a rule, larger households reside on larger areas. The cut-off point at which the increase in living space stops and the number of square metres per household member begin to decrease drastically is between the fifth and sixth member of household. While a person living alone has an average of 60 m2 and two people an average of 72 m2 at their disposal, households of four to ten members all live in dwellings with an average size of 80–90 m2.

An Estonian's home is older than he is

The average building (private house or block of flats) was constructed in 1965, while the average dwelling dates from 1972 and the average Estonian lives in a building completed in 1974. For comparison, the average Estonian was born in 1979, so the average inhabitant’s home is older than he or she is. The graph clearly illustrates that the majority of people in Estonia still reside in Soviet-era buildings. The newest houses are occupied by inhabitants of Harju county (the average year of construction is 1979) and Tartu county (1977), and the oldest buildings by people living in Hiiu county (1958).

New houses are mainly inhabited by young families

Figures show a correlation between household structure and period of construction of building. Roughly speaking, families with children account for about 27% of all private households in Estonia. In buildings completed in the last ten years, the share of families with children is 52%. Or, put another way – 11% of all families with children reside in buildings constructed in the last ten years, compared with 6% of all households. The graph indicates that the newest buildings are mainly inhabited by young families with small children. It is precisely the proportion of children under 10 and people aged 30–40 years that is highest in these houses.

However, the absolute majority – as many as two-thirds – of households in Estonia live in buildings completed during the Soviet era. While new buildings are predominantly occupied by families with children, Soviet-era buildings house proportionally more lone mothers and people living alone.

Almost everyone has access to running water in flats, while four out of five people do in private houses

In general, the availability of comfort characteristics in the dwellings of Estonia’s inhabitants has remained unchanged or has improved slightly since the previous population census. This is because for the most part, availability of comfort characteristics was already high at the time of the 2011 census. In the 2021 census, 94% of inhabitants had access to water supply system, 93% to bathing facilities, and 92% to toilet facilities. 71% of the population lived in a dwelling with central heating. Understandably, these figures are even higher in blocks of flats, with 99% of inhabitants having access to running water and flush toilet and 97% equipped with bathing facilities. 86% of people living in a block of flats have central heating. In private houses, where 30% of Estonia’s population live, 83% of people have access to water supply system, 88% enjoy bathing facilities, and 78% have toilet facilities.

The availability of comfort characteristics is relatively similar across various household structures, and there is no difference between households with or without minor children in that regard. Lone father households are the worst-off in this respect. On average, their access to water supply system and toilet and bathing facilities is 3–4 percentage points lower than that of the rest of the population. However, it must be acknowledged that it is lone fathers who most often reside in private houses, where availability of comfort characteristics is below average. Therefore, presence of comfort characteristics depends on the type of building rather than the household structure. In absolute terms, there are almost 27,000 households in Estonia without access to bathing facilities, of which around 5,000 are households with minor children. 49,000 households have to make do without a flush toilet, 9,000 of them households with minors. The proportion of households with underage children and no bathing facilities is highest in Valga county (9%) and lowest in Harju county (1%).