The skyline of Topeka, Kansas

The skyline of Topeka, Kansas, one of the U.S. cities offering incentives for new residents. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

For the majority of Americans living in coastal regions or a few hot inland housing markets, buying a home or even renting an apartment is cost-prohibitive for many young professionals. But in other parts of the country, where Rust Belt economics or just lack of interest depresses property values and hinders the local economy, officials are offering financial incentives for out-of-towners willing to put down their roots in their communities.

In a Dec. 14 article in The New York Times, the Kansan capital of Topeka (population 126,587), is the latest community to aggressively woo new residents, offering up to $15,000 for those willing to live and work in the city or other communities in Shawnee County.

With an average two-bedroom apartment rent of $750 per month and home prices averaging around $140,000, the city, which is in the middle of a renaissance, might seem to be a cure-all for the overpriced realities of California and metropolitan areas nationwide.

But there are some catches: You’d have to work for employers who would pay up to $15,000 in moving costs or financial assistance with homeownership. If you’re renting, the bonus is only $10,000.

The city and county are reimbursing participating employers, with the aim of filling professional roles, including financial services positions.

For more on Topeka’s efforts, visit the website of their economic development campaign, Go TOPEKA.

Financial Incentive Programs Offer Some Success to Struggling Cities and States

Topeka might be offering incentives for new arrivals on the local level, but at least one state – Vermont – has launched a statewide incentive program, giving $10,000 for anyone who would move into the state and work remotely, in an attempt to combat the economic downturn of an aging population.

Since the Green Mountain State launched its program in January 2019, more than 120 workers, along with spouses and children, have relocated to participate.

The program expands in 2020, with grants of up to $7,500 for new arrivals planning to work for employers in Vermont, rather than remotely.

On the local level, Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city of 400,000, is offering $10,000 for those willing to move in within six months. Maryland’s largest city, Baltimore, is offering a $5,000 credit for new home purchasers.

The Global Picture

Skyline of the Italian town of Zungoli

The Italian town of Zungoli (population 1,000) might seem idyllic, but with an aging population and moldering buildings, they’re giving away homes! Photo from Wikimedia Commons

While some parts of the U.S. might be struggling economically, with the decline of manufacturing or mining, or demographically, with an aging population and few arrivals or births to keep the engines of progress moving, things are much more desperate in other parts of the world, which translates into even more eye-popping values.

In Italy, where the population is likely to decline more than 10% by 2050 due to a low birth rate and sluggish economy that keeps immigration limited, two communities are selling homes for way less than the price of a pizza, or even espresso. Just €1 (or about $1.10 in U.S. money at the current exchange rate).

Zungoli, near Naples along the Amalfi Coast, has giveaway homes listed on their municipal website. It’s in Italian (maybe a good reason to pick up a semester of the language as a student?), but you can always use Google Translate.

But a word of caution: Many of these homes are centuries old, and repairs could be expensive. You’ll need to post a security deposit to commit to refurbishing the property. But there’s hefty tax deductions and the opportunity to turn the property into a bed and breakfast, artisan shop, or even restaurant (entrepreneurs, take note!)

Further south in Italy, Mussomeli has launched an English language site to make home buying easier, though the process is similar to that in Zungoli.

With poorer economies and even greater projected population declines, Eastern European nations are even more eager to increase their economies and number of residents. But the trend in that region, where Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy predominates, is to provide incentives for families to have more children, even offering little or no income tax for families with many youngsters, or offering monthly payments per child.

For More Information

Continue reading about the efforts of Topeka and other U.S. cities in this New York Times article. Or read more about Cal State Fullerton’s real estate education and research programs on Mihaylo News.