Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Precipitates a Rent Crisis Across the Caspian Region
Author: Sam Harshbarger
Apr 6, 2022
Across the Caspian region, and in particular the South Caucasus, tens of thousands of migrant Russians have strained the real estate market, with landlords raising rents and threatening to evict long-time local residents. Reliable and consistent data right now are hard to come by, as the situation continues to develop. Nevertheless, the initial available information paints a stark picture of a severe rent crisis affecting urban centers in Armenia and Georgia.
Local authorities in Yerevan have not released monthly cadastral reports since January. Anecdotally, however, a large influx of Russians has hit renters hard and sparked a wave of evictions. Russians moving to Armenia have complained that rental prices are higher than in St. Petersburg, while the quality is lower. Quoted in Eurasianet, Edward Harutyunyan of Viva Realty reports that rent prices have generally doubled or tripled across Yerevan.
Tbilisi, a hub for Russian emigres in recent years, has taken in over thirty thousand more since the launch of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While decreased economic growth, the depreciation of the Georgian lari against the U.S. dollar, and rising interest rates would, in normal times, lead to a drop in demand for Georgian real estate, the arrival of migrants has so far offset this. TBC Capital, a Georgian investment and advisory firm, estimates that 3 percent of arriving migrants from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine will purchase residential real estate, while the vast majority will choose to rent for now. They forecast that rents in Tbilisi will rise by around 25 percent year on year. Morever, according to its report, the war in Ukraine has disrupted supply chains for Ukrainian iron bars used in construction, a factor which both slow and raise the cost of new construction or remodeling.
Baku has seen far fewer new Russian inhabitants than the capitals in Armenia and Georgia. One reason given is that there are fewer travel options for Russians looking to get to Azerbaijan; flights between Azerbaijan and Russia were discontinued in March. Because of its strong currency, Baku is more expensive than either Yerevan or Tbilisi. At the same time, the city has seen a massive constrcution boom in recent years with a sizeable increase in the number of new apartments and houses.
Journalists furthermore report a rent crisis in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, as Uzbek migrants returning from Russia mix with newly-arriving Russian tech workers seeking to cash in on Uzbek incentives for IT businesses relocating from Russia. While Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, has also become a significant destination for outward movements by Russians, no reports have yet emerged of rising rent costs.
So long as the war continues, it seems unlikely that Russians and others fleeing sanctions and the violence of the invasion will return home soon. The rental markets in cities in Central Asia and the South Caucasus will likely continue to see higher prices for the foreseeable future unless and until further supply, possibly from currently unleased property as well as from additional construction, comes online. This reality could also lead to a certain degree of resentment in the domestic population towards newly-arrived Russians.