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Empty properties in Cornwall – the true picture

There have been stories in the media recently reporting that there are huge numbers of empty properties in Cornwall - this is not the case.

The standard method that the Council uses to calculate the number of properties that have been empty for six months or longer is through council tax records. Using that methodology, in September 2017 there were 3,163 properties (approx. 1.4% of all households in Cornwall) classified as being long term empty.

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The stories in the local media have taken their figures from an external report which uses census data from 2011.

The report being quoted talks about ‘vacant dwellings’ but the data is in fact 2011 census data relating to ‘household space with no usual residents’. A household space being the accommodation used or available for use by an individual household.

The definition of household spaces ‘with no usual residents’ includes holiday homes or apartments, those household spaces empty because of sale/transfer and properties containing short-term residents only who are not classified as usual residents. So in simple terms it’s available accommodation that is not being used on a permanent basis, this incorporates a far greater range and number of properties than simply long term empty properties.

The Council works with the owners of long term empty properties to return them to use as soon as possible. A Cornwall Council scheme has loaned more than £2 million to property owners to bring over 100 formerly empty homes back into use over the past 4 years.

The OCSI are a nationally recognised company and are regularly commissioned to undertake work on behalf of Government Departments. In this case the reports compiled by them package existing and openly available published data. Along with other Local Authorities in England, Cornwall Council subscribes with this company to enable this information to be made available. Unfortunately the wording within this report doesn’t reflect that the data is based on household space with no usual residents. Cornwall Council has made contact with the OCSI and we are informed that they are working to rectify this and make updated reports available as soon as possible

Story posted 24 October 2017