Move to This Town, Get a Free House

Mayor wants new residents to spark revival in Sicily
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2019 6:15 PM CST
Crumbling Town Offers Free Houses to Rehabbers
Cammarata, a town in Sicily, wants new residents to rehab abandoned buildings.   (Getty/Andreas_Zerndl)

"I can't stand to see this gorgeous, old historical center empty and turn into a ruin," Vincenzo Giambrone said. Owners have abandoned the crumbling, ancient houses, said the mayor of Cammarata, a town in Sicily, rather than repair them. "It leaves a deep scar on the townscape with the risk of dangerous collapses," he said. To reverse the damage and repopulate the shrinking town, CNN reports, Giambrone has talked the buildings' owners into handing over the buildings free of charge to people moving to the picturesque town. Recipients must provide a plan for refurbishment, agree to complete it within three years and put down a $4,300 deposit that's held until completion. Priority goes to families with young children, and couples who have a baby after moving there get a bonus of more than $1,000. The buildings can be turned into a house, hotel, B&B, shop or restaurant.

Other Italian towns have offered buildings for a dollar or so, but Giambrone has slashed that price. About a dozen stone buildings are ready for new owners now, he said, with more on the way. In addition to the price of housing, the mayor thinks newcomers will like the welcome they receive. The town prides itself on its hospitality, per the Independent. And Cammarata expects benefits beyond the remodeling. "Newcomers trigger change, innovation, new ideas," Giamberone said. "They revamp the local economy and can kick-start a revolution." Also free in the town are the scenes of the reddish stone buildings, balconies, palazzos and the nearby Mount Etna, an active volcano. (Read more Sicily stories.)

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