Urban case study: Temporary use of buildings - Riga

The challenge

Since the 1990, the city of Riga has lost about a quarter of its population, which has had a significant impact on land use in the city.

According to estimates by the activist group Free Riga, there are between 500 - 1000 entirely abandoned buildings in the city, many of them of historical value, often with an unclear ownership situation. This issue of vacant buildings not only created an impression of decay but often also caused environment degradation or security issues.


How to address this?

Using its right to apply different tax rates, in 2016 the Riga City council introduced an increased rate of 3% tax applied to neglected land (calculated from the cadastral value of the land). In order to encourage the re-use of vacant land and buildings, it also used its right to grant tax allowances ranging from 25% to 90%. Up to 90% tax relief can be applied to buildings that are recognised as having local educational, sports, cultural and social functions. This means, for example, that if a private owner of the building offers his premises to public benefit organisations (with or without remuneration), then the owner is entitled to 90% discount for annual property tax. Besides motivating owners to make use of their properties, this incentive is also a good basis for creating opportunities for non-profit organisations in delivering services for local communities.

In Riga, some associations are using this opportunity to engage private property owners to open their properties for community use. For instance, this regulation has helped the organisation Free Riga to make agreements with private property owners who would otherwise pay significant property taxes for their buildings remaining empty. “Free Riga” has emerged as an intermediary between owners of the empty spaces and prospective users of vacancy aiming to establish recognition and the much-needed credibility for temporary use as a new and still unknown instrument dealing with vacancy.

Read more on this case and on the topic of sustainable and circular use of spaces and buildings in the Handbook developed as a result of direct collaboration by our Circular Economy and Sustainable Land Use Partnerships! The Handbook serves as a guide for cities on how to re-use abandoned and underused spaces and buildings (link below).

The Handbook is the deliverable for both the action "Manage the re-use of buildings and spaces in a Circular Economy" (From the Circular Economy Action plan) and "Identifying and managing under-used land" (Action 3 from the Sustainable Land Use Action plan).


More information


Did you find this article useful?

Circular Economy Sustainable Land Use Nature-based Solutions practices handbook Urban Case Study