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To attract new residents, some places try giving land away
Eli Dile   on Monday, December 4, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

No matter the conditions, free anything will draw people’s interest. Free or heavily discounted land is not just a strategy from America’s homesteading days; it’s still being offered by remote regions eager to grow their populations and tax base.

Marquette, Kansas, pop. 650, began offering free land a decade ago (KSHB). Since that time, 35 new residents have built homes on lots ranging from 11,000 to 25,000 square feet. Town leaders credit the program with preserving an enviable retail mix for a town of its size, which includes a grocery store, bank, and several boutiques. Ten years on, Marquette still receives multiple inquiries per week about the program.

This will be the second time Smooth Rock Falls, pop. 1,330, has given land away (Toronto Star). The northern Ontario town watched nearly half its population vanish in the years following a paper mill closure in 2006, and city leaders resolved to take dramatic action. In the last round, 15 parcels of municipal land were offered at a 90 percent rebate, with some lots going for just $500. Inquires came from as far away as China and Australia.

The Yukon Territory is larger than California but has fewer than 40,000 permanent residents (Reuters). Climate change is opening previously inhospitable land to agriculture and extending the growing season, so the territory is offering up to 160 acres per person if the recipient agrees to farm it. To curb speculation, participants must farm the land for seven years before selling it. Over the past decade, the Yukon has given away an average of 10 parcels per year for a total of 8,000 acres.

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