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A research pilot for shrinking cities

2020 • Estonian Ministry of Finance • Estonia

A research pilot exploring new data sources for mapping building vacancies.

When mapping shrinkage, what kinds of and sources of data should we use?

In 2018 the Ministry of Finance started to received dozens unwanted apartments of apartments from people in East Estonia. The debate on shrinking cities was already open, but this became a turning point and a surprise, particularly given that at the time, interest rates were low, and housing prices were on a steady rise - 5,7% year-on-year. This phenomenon spun a new investigation branch in Estonia, focusing on the relationships between demographic change and the built environment.

A year later, we initiated a research pilot for the Estonian Ministry of Finance in East Estonia (Ida Viru region) to design a methodology to map shrinkage and evaluate its risks to socio-economic development. Our core objective was to find a reliable data source to understand vacancies at the building level.

Our team dived into all available data sources and eventually produced a methodology for making electricity consumption data meaningful to mapping vacancy rates.

This pilot revealed that building vacancy reached an alarming rate of 25%, and highly vacant buildings tended to cluster. Moreover, areas with increasingly empty buildings were characterised by historic houses with cultural, architectural and natural significance.

Shrinking cities pilot 1 Number of vacant dwellings by building typology.

Currently we don’t have an English version of this report. If you want to know more about this project, you can book time for a presentation here or write to kristi@spinunit.org


↗︎ The report in Estonian is available here

Team Members: Damiano Cerrone, John Hadaway, Kristjan Männigo

Project Lead: Damiano Cerrone

Project Partners: TalTech