Beatrice, Neb., was founded by homesteaders, and now it’s hoping to recapture that 19th-century magic. In the midst of a budget squeeze, the city has passed “the Homestead Act of 2010,” a plan to give away city land to anyone willing to build a home there and live in it for three years. The goal is to make taxable property out of land it wasn’t doing anything with anyway.
“There are only so many ball fields a place can build,” the city attorney tells the New York Times. “It really hurts having all this stuff off the tax rolls.” Beatrice isn’t alone either. Dayton, Ohio, is trying out a similar scheme, charging would-be homesteaders only nominal fees for the land, as is Grafton, Ill. Dayton is particularly eager to unload its vacant properties; officials say they spend $2 million a year just mowing the grass on them.