National study of shrinking patters in Estonia

Unpacking the complexity of shrinkage for policy makers and city planners.


︎ Client: Estonian Ministry of Economy and Communication
︎ Partners: TalTech

︎ Executive summary in English
︎ Full-report in Estonian
︎ Presentation at OECD Smart Shrinkage event.

︎ A comprehensive article on Medium

What building types and settlements are most vulnerable to shrinkage?

In 2021 The Ministry of Economy financed the undertake of a national study of shrinking citie to SPIN Unit and TalTech. For that, we started from the methodology we developed during a pilot study in 2020 and scale it up nationally. The core questions to answer were, "What are the shrinking patterns in Estonia?" and "What are the most vulnerable areas and building types?"
︎ National electricity consumption data of apartment buildings
︎ National building occupancy data (Residency index) of apartment buildings

︎ National building occupancy data of single family houses (anonimsed)
︎ Manually mapped informal parking plots.

The emergence of the first map of vacancy aggregated by municipalities presented how East Estonia was not the only region affected by high vacancy rates. On the contrary, according to the electricity data, 25 municipalities had a vacancy rate of at least 15% in 2019. This meant that about one in six dwellings is empty in roughly one- third of Estonia's municipalities. We have also observed a significant difference between the vacancy rates of single-family houses and apartment buildings: 7% of apartment dwellings are vacant, compared to 12% of single-family houses. Those differences are also reflected locally.

While the pages of this research are still being written, we started working with an steering group selected by the Ministry of Economy to begin studying the most vulnerable cities.

Vulnerability indicates which municipalities may be most vulnerable to shrinkage from a governance perspective, based on a combination of five metrics: the vacancy rate, the change in vacancy, the change in the Demographic Labour Pressure Index (DEMLPI), the population decline relative to the national mean, and the municipal debt.