4 Places That Will Actually Pay You to Live There

Some small towns, cities and even states offer financial incentives to get people to call them home.

You've probably heard that Alaskans receive a lump of cash every year just for living in Alaska. Financed by mineral royalties, the payout from the state's Permanent Fund was $1,884 for 2014. To be eligible individuals had to have been residents during the entire previous calendar year and intend to remain residents indefinitely. But Alaska doesn't have a monopoly on dangling financial carrots that get people to put down roots.

We found small towns, a big city and a large chunk of an entire state that offer incentives ranging from free lots and housing allowances to tax rebates and student-loan reimbursements to entice people to live in their communities. So if you’re thinking about moving, you might want to consider relocating to a place that wants you enough to pay you to live there. Here are four options:

Harmony, Minn. In 2014, the leaders of this town of 1,020, which bills itself as a “nice place to visit, even better place to live,” recognized that Harmony had a problem. The owner of one of the community’s major employers, Harmony Enterprises, told them that his new employees with young families had complained about the lack of move-in-ready homes, says Chris Giesen, economic development coordinator for Harmony. “After some inventory analysis, we realized we did have many homes available for reasonable prices but they were generally smaller and required a lot of work to fix,” he says. Local officials also realized that Harmony’s median age was one of the highest in southeastern Minnesota and its median income was one of the lowest.

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So in the spring of 2014, the Harmony Economic Development Authority (EDA) launched a home construction rebate program (opens in new tab) that offers a cash rebate of up to $12,000 to those who build a new home. Giesen says that there are several existing lots with full city services for sale in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. No new homes have been built yet, but the Authority says it is working with a few applicants. In addition to Harmony Enterprises, a maker of recycling equipment, bridge-building contractor Minnowa Construction is headquartered in Harmony. A large Amish population and Niagara Cave attract tourists to the area.

Niagara Falls, N.Y. While millions of visitors flock to Niagara Falls annually, the residents of the city named after the famous waterfalls on the U.S.-Canada border have been leaving for years. In a bid to boost its population, currently 49,468 and shrinking, the city launched an effort to lure young people to its downtown by offering to help repay their student loans. The Downtown Housing Incentive Program (opens in new tab) reimburses recent college graduates holding either a bachelor's degree or two-year technical degree up to $3,492 per year over two years for loan payments in exchange for living in designated downtown neighborhoods for the full two-year period. The city dubs the program participants "urban pioneers."

Kansas. Yes, an entire state – well, much of it – will pay you to live there. Rural Opportunity Zones (opens in new tab) in 77 of the state’s 105 counties offer new residents state income-tax waivers for up to five years. And 70 of those 77 rural counties also offer student-loan repayments up to $15,000, says Kansas Commerce Department spokesperson Matt Keith. Among the requirements to get the tax waiver, you must have lived outside of Kansas for five or more years prior to moving. To be eligible for student-loan repayments, you must have established residency in a ROZ county after a specified date, and have an associate’s, bachelor’s or post-graduate degree, among other requirements. The program has been so popular that some counties have waiting lists, Keith says.

Several ROZ counties have additional incentives of their own to lure new residents. For example, Lincoln, which has a population of 1,297 and describes itself as the “size of a dime with the heart of a dollar,” is giving away free lots (opens in new tab) to the first 21 applicants who build homes in one of the town’s new subdivisions. You can get a free lot (opens in new tab), a free building permit and free water and sewer hookup in Marquette – which despite having a population of only 643 boasts a community garden, art galleries and a motorcycle museum. Osborne, a town of 1,421, is offering free lots (opens in new tab) in a new subdivision and a five-year property tax rebate (opens in new tab). Plainville, population 1,903, is offering free lots (opens in new tab) for the construction of new homes as well as a 10-year property tax rebate (opens in new tab).

Detroit. Detroit is no small town, but it’s certainly experienced its share of population and economic decline. So to lure people back, the Live Downtown (opens in new tab) and Live Midtown (opens in new tab) incentive programs were launched in 2011. To be eligible, you have to be an employee of specific companies that are located in those areas and rent or buy a home in corresponding neighborhoods. Both programs provide four financial incentives: a $2,500 allowance toward the cost of an apartment for new renters the first year and $1,000 the second year; $1,000 for existing renters to renew a lease; up to $5,000 for existing homeowners for exterior-improvement projects valued at $10,000 or more; and up to $20,000 for new homeowners for the purchase of a home. This last incentive is in the form of a loan that’s forgiven if you remain an employee at a participating company and live at the property for five years, says Elise Fields of Midtown Detroit Inc., which administers both programs.

Cameron Huddleston
Former Online Editor, Kiplinger.com

Award-winning journalist, speaker, family finance expert, and author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk.

Cameron Huddleston wrote the daily "Kip Tips" column for Kiplinger.com. She joined Kiplinger in 2001 after graduating from American University with an MA in economic journalism.