Sicilian town is giving away fixer-upper houses to rebuild its dwindling population; the catch? Many of the homes have been abandoned for decades

Aug 11, 2015

Sound too good to be true? In most cases it probably would be. But many takers disagree.

chl sicily town

Sicilian town of Gangi wants to replenish a dwindling population.

The small Sicilian town of Gangi is nestled in a lovely central part of the island and needs new residents to replenish its dwindling populace. The local government decided to give away free homes to individuals and businesses that are interested in a unique fixer-upper. The hope is that this will add businesses and increase interest in the town.

In the official release, the town of Gangi, population 7,000, explained that anyone who is assigned a free house will bear the expenses for the transfer of ownership. The requirements say that the new owners will have one year to present a plan of renovation and that work must be completed in three years. This will not be quick or easy as many of the houses have been vacant for decades. To put it in other terms: It’s your problem now.

Even so, the line of interested people keeps getting longer and longer. They have been arriving faster than the government can give them away. Many of the takers are foreigners.

The decision to give the homes away came after several decades of people leaving Sicily to live the American dream and later the South American dream.

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Marcello Saija, the director of a network of emigration museums in Sicily, told The New York Times that between 1892 and 1924, roughly 1,700 immigrants from Gangi landed in Ellis Island. By the 1940s, New York was passed over by Argentina as the new hot spot for a new life.

With all the increasing interest in the homes, the local government has the luxury of being selective. Their preference is not to limit the homes to those with money, but to people that are interested in improving a house and to improve Gangi.

The city isn’t the first to make such an offer. In the United States, Gary, Indiana, Indianapolis, and Detroit offered displaced homes for cheap or by giving them away for US$1 or free.

 

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