New data has revealed that Cornwall has one of the highest numbers of vacant homes in the South West.
The data, gathered through Freedom of Information requests by Admiral, shows that there are 16,900 empty homes in the South West, with a total worth of £5,000,000,000.
The research breaks down how long homes have been vacant, and ranks council areas by number of empty homes.
For houses that had been empty for between five and nine years, Cornwall ranked first, with 165 vacant houses and the highest collective value, totalling £46,200,000.
Cornwall was also the area with the most homes that had been vacant for 10 or more years, with 90 empty houses and a total value of £25,200,000.
Looking at houses that have been vacant for between two and four years, Cornwall ranked second, with 567 empty homes and a collective value of £158,760,000.
Over the past 10 years, Cornwall Council has invested more than £3,000,000 in the refurbishment of 153 empty properties into occupied homes.
However, there are currently more than 2,500 homes in the area that have been vacant for six months or longer.
Commenting on the data, a spokesperson for Cornwall Council said: “With around 2,671 long term empty homes in Cornwall making up 0.92 per cent of total housing stock, the Council continues to support the refurbishment of homes through its empty property loan scheme.
“Cornwall Council seeks to engage positively with the owners of long term empty residential properties in Cornwall. Through advice, assistance and the provision of financial support in the form of a loan, many long-term empty properties have successfully been returned to use over recent years.
“There can be many reasons why a property is left empty including delays in probate, intention to sell, property left as intention is it will form part of an inheritance or investment, intention to renovate but delays with planning/availability of builders or materials. In most cases there are realistic solutions to financial and other challenges which are preventing properties from being brought back into use.
“We want to work with empty property owners to address the housing shortage in Cornwall.
“Set up in 2013, the Council has invested loans totalling £3,320,563 to support bringing 153 empty properties back into use that have been empty or unused for at least six months or are being converted from commercial use into residential housing. Short term, low interest loans of up to £60,000 are available to refurbish single homes, with higher amounts available where there is more than one home which can potentially be brought back into use.
“The loans from the Council have supported projects of all types from simple home refurbishments, conversion of disused chapels, halls and public houses to turning former industrial sites into homes.
“Unless an empty property is unoccupied and unfurnished and undergoing major repairs, there is no discount on council tax.”
The Council added that vacant properties are subject to an Empty Homes Premium, with a 200 per cent council tax charge for properties empty for two to five years, 300 per cent for those vacant between five and ten years, and 400 per cent for houses that have been unoccupied for more than a decade.
Jonathan Tan, co-founder and CEO of housing charity Greater Change, commented: “There are over 1.2 million households on the waiting list of council housing in England.
“While the data suggests that long-term empty properties could potentially accommodate up to 21 per cent of the current housing demand, it's crucial to understand that the actual percentage of habitable properties is likely significantly lower.
“Moreover, the estimated total of individuals experiencing homelessness is suspected to surpass the officially recorded statistics.
“Numerous factors contribute to properties remaining vacant long-term, rendering the full 21 per cent not necessarily feasible for social housing conversion.
“These factors may include the property being a holiday home, requiring extensive renovation, or being entangled in legal proceedings.
“Local housing allowance rates and universal credit rates have been frozen since April 2020 levels, making private renting unaffordable to those on benefits.
“We at Greater Change are actively campaigning alongside our partners, different coalitions and homelessness charities to see the benefits rates rise to protect people who are the most financially vulnerable and give them the ability to afford to live.”