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National study of shrinking patters in Estonia

2022 • Estonian Ministry of Economy and Comunication • Estonia

Producing Estonia's shrinking cities map using building-level data.

What are the shrinking patterns of Estonia, and which places are most vulnerable to it?

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?”


Data collection was crucial, as this was the first time that electricity consumption data at the flat level was gathered to analyse vacancy rates on a national scale. This project heavily focused on static and interative cartographies to make building consumption data meaninful to policy makers and the steering group from the Estonian Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economy and Comunication. Over seven months, we worked closely with the Ministry of Economic, Statistics Estonia, and the Estonian Data Protection Agency to collect, validate, aggregate, and categorise vacancy data of apartment buildings and single- family houses - the first was released granularly.

SPIN-Unit-2022-shrinkingcities-2 Demographic change relative to the national trend.

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.

SPIN-Unit-2022-shrinkingcities-3 Vacancy rate by municipality.

Growing cities are also shrinking and shrinking cities are also growing. Overall in Estonia, 118 small towns are growing, and 42 are shrinking - at least a 5% vacancy rate decrease and a 5% vacancy rate increase, respectively.

SPIN-Unit-2022-shrinkingcities-3 Vulnerability index bny municipality.


↗︎ The English summary of our report in English is available here

↗︎ They keynote presented at the OECD event is available here

↗︎ The full report in Estonian is available here

Team Members: Damiano Cerrone, John Hadaway, Kristjan Männigo, TalTech

Project Lead: Damiano Cerrone

Project Partners: TalTech