There was a significant announcement yesterday by Andrew Stunell, the Lib Dem local government minister. He said that the Government are planning to allow councils to charge additional council tax on empty homes. Properties which haven't been occupied for two years or more could be subject to an additional 50% charge as a "nudge to owners to bring abandoned homes back into use."
This is the second piece of good news about empty homes in just a couple of weeks. The first was the awarding to Cornwall Council of just under £2 million in what is called the new homes bonus. This is money given on the basis of the number of new affordable homes built in Cornwall over the previous year. The council can spend it on bringing empty homes into use or on infrastructure projects to enable developers to build more affordable homes.
In Cornwall at present there are 9,407 empty homes. There is a legitimate debate about just how much new building we want in Cornwall, and where it should go. But what is unarguable is that it makes sense to get local families who need a home to occupy existing buildings first before we build thousands and thousands of new properties.