Cornwall’s Empty Homes

When talking about housing and Cornwall in the same sentence you often get the same replies. Too many second homes and not enough affordable housing. Both of these issues do have an affect on the housing stock in Cornwall, but there is another category that is hardly mentioned. And that is empty homes.

Empty home’s is a  problem for Cornwall’s housing stock and as of 1st July 2012, there are currently 3875 properties registered as long-term empty in Cornwall. Now granted it is not always the fault of the owner as why a house is empty because many are subject to legal proceedings like probate, repossession, divorce etc. Besides the properties that are known to the Authority via the Council Tax register, the Empty Homes Team is in correspondence with the owners of 487 properties that are not registered as long-term empty, but are not in use.

However, there are many whose owners just does not care if their property is left empty. It is these that should be targeted to see what can be done to bring them back into use. Cornwall Council’s Empty Homes Team has had some success in bring these empty homes back into use.

In the last quarter of 2010, 89 homes were brought back into use. For 2012, a 142 and for the first quarter of 2012, 46. This is good news, but is only scratching the surface of the problem. More could be done, but this relies on more money being assigned to the issue. Central Government has awarded several million to help Cornwall Council, but this is like taking a bucket of water out of the sea.

In Porthleven, my last figures had 27 properties that are classed as empty homes. I have been working with the Empty Homes Team to highlight those have been long-term empty. The owners of these properties have been contacted, and some progress has been made. However if the owners still do not respond, Cornwall Council can use its powers of Compulsory Purchase. This though can be a long and expensive process, and has yet not used these powers.

Let’s hope by talking to the owners of the properties, a lot can be brought back into use.


  • Thing is the powers that be not sure who that maybe should take a look at the home as a member of the community had reported a home that had been vacant nxt to them. Some one phoned the owner and the owner said he still used the house and he went in through the back entrance…….this was demed satisfactory and didnt go into it any further. However the neighbours have reported that the house has no back entrance! The process has been delayed. I know it may not be easy to meet at the home and other issues come into play but it may also not be the correct way to believe the owner straight away!

  • Spencer Wilson

    Hi Andrew

    Long term empty homes are a blight and I would love to see more brought back into use. I know the subject is a passionate one of yours, having read previous posts. The distinguishments you make here about holiday homes and those where people just don’t appear to want to do anything about their empty home, are spot on.

    As a practitioner (if you like) in local gov for trying to bring empty homes back into use, same as the empty homes team you reference in your post, it is often a thankless task – I know you will recognise that.

    What I believe is important is understanding the value of the statistics we have at our disposal; especially where it comes to those showing how many properties have come back into use.

    I receive statistics on a weekly basis, which over the last several months show a reduction of several hundred properties. This is fantastic! However, I could not genuinely evidence ‘I’ had influenced directly the majority of the owners to take action. The fact they have all received letters etc etc, I do not believe constitutes direct intervention for which I can claim “If it were not for me…”.

    What I am currently working on in the strategic element of my role, is establish the peaks and troughs of empty homes figures (for instance ‘seasonally’), what initiatives are currently ongoing that could be of influence, what are local economic factors…

    It is never going to be an exact science, but there needs to be an understanding of the figures, a story behind them, if we are to be able to recognise whether we have made an impact or not – especially where justifying from an officer, management, or political point of view.

    Otherwise, the number of empty homes is always going to be just a number, splashed around and used for arguments and debate to no good end, as there is no real context.

    It would be interesting to know how local authorities (officers and politians) nationally, use the figures ‘just as they are’, or how many have developed the deeper and more real context I’m alluding to.


  • Yes you are right, some owners do try it on. I know a couple of properties in Porthleven just like this. I have asked the Empty Homes Team to let me know when they get a response like this, so I can check further with neighbours etc. Sadly, the Empty Homes Team is a small team, and does not have all the resources to do visit a property all the time. Hence why I have said I can help.

  • I appreciate it must be difficult and please dont think i was on my soap box just thought ud pass on what had been told to me.its great u can help! I think it a national problem i had the same where i used to live! Hope u have some positivity from this as it can only benifit everyone!

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