A number of towns in Europe are so worried about their dwindling populations that are offering purchasing grants, cheap rents and cash payouts for moving there — and for having babies — to new residents, including foreigners, as encouragement to relocate.
The initiative is not new and the towns that have already put in practice the funding and other incentives for relocation schemes, have gotten so much global media attention that new destinations from Switzerland to Italy, Greece and Spain are upping the offers — in some cases up to €50,000 per family — to attract residents.
“You won’t find schemes like this in major beach holiday hotspots or in big cities, though,” explains ThinkSpain. “The idea of financial incentives for people to move to the municipalities is to prevent their population from declining, and to justify keeping or acquiring facilities that may otherwise be considered non-cost effective.”
There are many tempting invitations available across the continent. At the end of last year, according to Time Out, Italy announced it would pay people €30,000 to relocate to some of its rural towns. “The country also has an ongoing €1 home scheme, most recently putting eight houses in Sant’Elia up for sale to stimulate the town’s economy.”
The offers naturally come with conditions attached. Many, for example, prefer families with children, or people who plan to have children once they’re settled. They also require guarantee that they intend to live there long-term.
“Want to get paid to move to Italy or Spain?” asks Euronews in an article listing six of the towns “in need of new residents.”
“Many European rural areas are facing aging populations as young people move to cities or opt not to have children. To combat this, some local governments are encouraging foreigners to take up residence there.”
The following list includes a few of the most recent offers.
Albinen in the Swiss Alps, with fewer than 250 residents, is offering to pay families more than €50,000 to move there.
“Perched on a mountainside in the canton of Valais, the picturesque village is just over an hour’s drive from celeb ski resort Verbier,” Euronews explains.
The municipality is offering 25,000 Swiss francs (€25,300) to adults under 45 years old to move there and 10,000 Swiss Francs (€10,120) per child.
The scheme is open first to Swiss citizens or eligible foreigners who have lived in Switzerland long enough to gain a ‘permit C’ residence.
Applicants are also required to live in a home worth at least 200,000 Swiss francs (€202,310) and must commit to living in Albinen for 10 years.
The town of Ponga in the Asturias region of northern Spain is offering up to €3,000 to families with children and up to €2,000 for single people or couples without children. Families who add to the population will receive an additional €3,500 for each baby born in the village.
In the heart of the Cantabrian Mountains, Ponga is a 600-person town and municipality with a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve, very popular with hikers and just an hour’s drive from the coast.
With its emerald-green mountains, the village is known to have witnessed the passage of Celtic culture. It is also known for its high-quality local products, including artisanal cheese, honey, and cured meats
To take advantage of the offer, people must agree to live there for at least five years.
“The adorable small town of Ponga in Spain’s northern mountains hopes that the new citizens will boost the local economy while enjoying the 2,000 hours of sunshine across the year,” Time Out writes.
“Ponga is home to a major nature reserve, meaning residents have access to beautiful hiking trails, breathtaking birdwatching spots, and thrilling adventure sports. The nearby Costa Verde offers beach days while locals can enjoy a busier pace of life in Gijon, the closest city.”
The village of Rubiá with 1,400 residents in the northwest Galicia region, a 2 1/2 hour drive east of Santiago de Compostela, will pay new residents — preferably families — up to €150 a month to live there.
The scheme hopes to increase student numbers at local schools.
“While it’s a not a famous destination among foreigners, Rubiá offers stunning natural landscapes and a peaceful way of life. Rubiá is well connected to the Galicia region, plus an airport at Santiago de Compostela with flights to the city of Porto in Portugal,” writes Digital Émigré.
Expatriate Group adds two small villages that are offering vacant properties for very low rent:
Xesta, a small village with fewer than 100 residents in northwest Spain “has around 125 vacant properties that it’s looking to fill, so is offering newcomers the opportunity to pay only €100 in rent.”
The village of Griegos in eastern Spain, with 130 residents, “is offering jobs and three months’ free rent to newcomers. After that, rent will only be €225 per month and residents will receive an extra €50 for every child aged between 4 and 18.”
Looking for digital nomads
After the Covid-19 pandemic, digital nomads have become a top tourism target.
“Unlike traditional tourists, remote workers tend to stay in an area for several weeks or months, funneling money into local housing, restaurants, supermarkets, gyms, laundries and salons,” writes Traveling Lifestyle.
To attract them, small cities and villages around the world have created special programs, cash payments and other incentives.
According to the site, “Spanish villages will pay digital nomads up to $3,500 to relocate: the National Network of Welcoming Villages, which has around 30 members, is trying to lure foreign remote workers to Spain by providing co-working spaces, high-speed internet and money for moving expenses.”
The participating villages are “tiny, inexpensive and brimming with charm.” The article mentions that the cost of living in those places could be as low as $175 per week and not more than $475 and mentions:
Benarraba, a town with fewer than 500 residents in Malaga in the north region of Andalusia and Tolox, a quaint village also in Malaga, with a population of just 2,250, located in the Sierra de las Nieves mountains.
The town of Oliete on the Aragon region, with 343 residents and “a vibrant cultural and food scene.”
The village of Kuartango in Basque Country’s Gorbeia Natural Park with a population of 430 people.
Tejada, in the mountainous Canary Islands, a small town “only an hour’s drive from the seaside.”
San Vicente de La Sonsierra in La Rioja region with 1,030 inhabitants.
Some Italian offers
The southwestern, sun-baked Italian Calabria region is offering up to €28,000 to people willing to relocate to a village with fewer than 2,000 residents, reports Euronews.
“The initiative hopes to combat depopulation and those interested in applying must be 40 years old or under and move to the region within 90 days of their application being accepted. They must also launch a business or find employment.”
Presicce-Acquarica in the Province of Lecce in the southern Italian region of Puglia will pay new residents up to €30,000 to relocate there and an additional €1,000 for every baby born there.
The municipality consisting of two towns – Presicce and Acquarica del Capo – are surrounded by countryside and olive groves.
The money must be used to purchase and renovate an uninhabited, pre-1991 property in the area — there are many — and individuals or families must move their official residency to the town.
The exact details of the scheme, according to Euronews, are being finalized and applications will open on the local town hall’s website later this year.
The island of Sardinia is offering €15,000 to people ready to relocate there in an effort to remedy the trend of dwindling numbers of rural population.
Known for its sandy beaches, blue skies and turquoise waters, the Mediterranean idyll wants to combat the exodus and the government has set aside €45 million for the relocation plan, enough to cover 3,000 grants.
To be eligible for the grant, people must move to a Sardinian municipality with a population of fewer than 3,000 people and the money must be used to buy or renovate a home.
Recipients must live there full-time and register for permanent residency in Sardinia within 18 months of arrival.
Candela, a small town in southeastern Italy’s Puglia region, with around 2,700 people, appears on the list of “countries that will pay you to live there” published by Expatriate Group:
“It’s one of the safest towns in Italy and has gorgeous classic Italian architecture. Candela is offering single people €800, couples €1,300, and families €2,000 to move to the village. To be eligible, newcomers will have to rent a property in Candela where they intend to live full-time, and also secure a job that earns at least €7,500 per year.”
Greece’s financial incentives
“Greece is facing a tough situation, as its population is getting smaller and older,” writes Digital Émigré. “The birth rate is low and many people are leaving the country. This is putting a lot of pressure on Greece’s social security system and making it harder for Greece to grow economically and find enough skilled workers.”
One island in Greece is offering incentives to encourage newcomers and combat the trend:
On this island, south of mainland Greece and northwest of Crete, the Greek Orthodox Church has introduced a plan to pay families to move there.
“New residents will receive a home and a piece of land and will be paid €500 every month for the first three years they live there,” writes Expatriate Group. “The island promises a peaceful, rural life, with gorgeous beaches and that wonderful Greek climate.”