Featured in Town Planning Review 93.4: Effects of new construction and renovation on ethnic and social mixing in apartment buildings in Estonia

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The editors of Town Planning Review (TPR) have selected the following paper as the Featured Article in TPR 93.4, it is available to read Open Access for 2022 as part of LUP Open Planning: 

Effects of new construction and renovation on ethnic and social mixing in apartment buildings in Estonia by Daniel B. Hess, Annika Väiko, and Tiit Tammaru.

When asked to describe the paper and highlight its importance, the authors stated the following:

In this article, we deepen our scholarly engagement with inequitable outcomes in the European housing sector. We explore the effect on residential segregation of two alternative ways of improving the housing stock: addition of housing units in newly-built apartment buildings and renovating existing housing units. We draw on data from Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. Tallinn is an interesting case because of its very liberal housing policy and the fact that the city experienced increasing segregation between the two last census rounds. A high share of housing units in Tallinn are standardized apartments in pre-fabricated buildings from the socialist era.

“Our findings strongly suggest that the addition of new apartment buildings to the housing stock increases segregation,” says Dr. Daniel B. Hess. Hess further explains that in Tallinn, Estonia and certain European centers, housing markets have expanded rapidly in recent years and housing costs have spiraled. A growing housing sector, therefore, can deepen ethnic and income divides.


Our findings further show that the retrofitting of pre-fabricated houses helps to maintain and even improve their social mix. Social integration is frequently an aim of urban policy and offers benefits across various life domains, e.g. children living in the same neighborhood tend to attend the same school. Many socialist-era housing estates in European cities possess social stability that is worth preserving to prevent future social downgrading or even ghettoization of housing estates.

“We caution that a very liberal approach to the housing sector reproduces inequities in the residential space of cities that may carry on to school segregation or from parents’ generation to their childrens’ generation,” Dr. Tiit Tammaru explains. The authors of the article provide recommendation for practice, focusing on upgrades to physical environments in residential districts and expansion of programs that support social integration.

The author team’s research is timely, since more than 9 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, according to data from the United Nations Refugee Agency. Many of these refugees could be housed in the vast supply of apartments in standardized apartment buildings throughout European cities, which are not unlike apartments refugees left behind in Ukraine. “Our research contributes to better understanding inequities in cities,” says Annika Väiko, “which is important since cities and regions drive European economies.”

-Daniel B. Hess, Annika Väiko, Tiit Tammaru

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