The lucrative business of second homes and holiday lets have transformed areas like Cornwall into hollowed out shells for tourist enjoyment.

The impacts of property becoming an investment rather than a home has far reaching affects and has left many homeless as they are evicted to make way for more lucrative letting.

“I look out of my window, and I can count four or five homes which are empty," says Joe Hunter of Fowey, who works as a bar manager. "They will have people in next week because of the easter holidays and then they will be empty again until summer.”

“It just really makes me angry when we have so many local Cornish people who need homes. There’s so many people having to live in caravans, their cars or are just having to leave the county,” the 23-year-old added.

The National Wales: A view of Fowey in Cornwall. Photo: Joe Hunter A view of Fowey in Cornwall. Photo: Joe Hunter

According to data from Cornwall Council, as of April 7 2022, there are 12,776 registered second homes in the county.

This number has decreased by 484 since November 2021. But this is not as positive as it seems because of the loophole that let second homeowners avoid paying council tax by indicating they were letting the home to holiday makers.

Under the new rules announced in January of this year, these owners will have to prove they have rented the property by giving website or brochure details, letting details and receipts.

READ MORE: What does it mean to be Cornish?

By stark comparison there are currently 21,862 households on the social housing register waiting for a home to become available in Cornwall. The county has around 30,000 social and affordable rented homes.

Mr Hunter said: “There is a portion of the population who increasingly just want to use Cornwall as a holiday park.

“I believe the media has constructed a romanticised version of Cornwall. But it is unrealistic, and it doesn’t focus on the real-life struggles of the people who live here.”

The National Wales: St Ives in Cornwall. Photo: PASt Ives in Cornwall. Photo: PA

Jason Lilley, a Cornish artist from St Ives said: “Unlike lots of other Cornish towns, St Ives is slightly more nuanced, a once six month economy has been extended to nearly all year.

“Mass exposure in the media and impossible foreign holidays due to Corona virus has been a major cause for this. St Ives is no longer a ghost town with little respite to take a deep breath. The summer is rammed, and the Winter is not far behind.

“Employers and employees cannot find anywhere to park, resorting to a 45-minute walk to work which puts pressure on the system and makes it almost impossible to employ anyone who doesn’t live in the town. A small pool and getting smaller.”

The National Wales: Cornish artist, Jason LilleyCornish artist, Jason Lilley

The divide between locals and tourists has been significant for decades, but over the past two years it has gotten worse.

Mr Lilley said: “Second homes and Airbnb have made it impossible for our daughter to rent anywhere let alone even think about owning a property in the place where she loves, lives and works.”

The National Wales: Falmouth in Cornwall. Photo: Rowenna HoskinFalmouth in Cornwall. Photo: Rowenna Hoskin

He explained that local employers need flexible staff but due to the lack of public transport and distance staff must travel to get to work, the system is close to collapsing.

“Our daughter works in Falmouth but renting in the area is impossible, there are over 300 people on the estate agents’ watch lists. Properties go within 24 hours for unobtainable prices for the average worker,” he added.

“The holiday makers resent the lack of staff creating queues and slow service devoid of understanding that it is their collective fault and the fault of greedy self-serving antisocial homebuyers which have converted a home into an investment.”

The National Wales: Luxury apartments being constructed in Fowey. Luxury apartments being constructed in Fowey.

Echoing this sentiment, Mr Hunter said: “People want to use Cornwall, but they see the Cornish as an annoying inconvenience. Gordon Ramsey’s recent comments just sum it up for me.”

The renowned chef appeared on BBC Radio 2 in March and said: “Trust me I absolutely love Cornwall, it's just the Cornish I can't stand.”

Lots of Cornish hotspots now have six-month economies because of the tourism industry which only makes up around 11% of of the county’s GDP.


Cath Navin is the coordinator of First Homes NOT Second which advocates for stronger enforcement on second homeowners and the need for more affordable housing.

She said that the idea for starting the campaign came to her while travelling through Wales. She read a paper that detailed the school closures in the area.

“I just realised that something had to be done, this is a national problem and it is affecting Cornwall is a big way,” she said.

The National Wales: St Ives in Cornwall. Photo: Rowenna HoskinSt Ives in Cornwall. Photo: Rowenna Hoskin

Cornwall has become a national, if not global stage Ms Navin explained. With G7 putting the location on the map in a way it had not been previously, she said that the second home crisis became worse with more visitors and buyers wanting a slice of the beautiful location.

According to Ms Nevin, the solutions to this problem are controlling the planning permission for a change of use of a property, introducing a ‘good landlord’ scheme to ensure high standards of long-term letting, and the prioritisation of first home occupancy over second-home ownership.

In extreme cases where areas have lost communities and local amenities, Ms Nevin suggested the compulsory purchase of property to redress the balance between long-term lets and second homes.

The National Wales: The Cornish coast path. Photo: PAThe Cornish coast path. Photo: PA

Ms Nevin, Mr Hunter, and Mr Lilley agreed that the Welsh Government’s proposals for a 300% tax on second homes is a good idea, and something that needs to be implemented in Cornwall, including more devolved powers in order to make a difference.

Abi Smith, Housing Intelligence Officer for Cornwall Council explained: “We have a housing action housing plan recognising this issue and what we can do about it, the main things are pretty similar to what Wales is doing.”

Cornwall Council’s Housing Crisis Response report has a series of goals, including: providing grants for housing associations to buy more affordable housing, bringing long term empty houses back into use and charge higher council tax on second homes.

Mr Hunter said: “I personally think Cornwall deserves its own Assembly. We are a national minority, and we have a very distinctive national identity just as Welsh people do.

"In my opinion the Cornish would be a lot better governing themselves than the six conservative MPs who currently do.”

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.