GENEVA — The Alpine hamlet of Albinen is so desperate for new residents that it voted Thursday to offer $70,000 for a family of four to settle in the southern Swiss community.
In the first referendum of its kind, 100 of Albinen's 248 residents showed up to vote, and 71 approved a proposal to pay $25,000 to each adult and $10,000 per child to live in their picturesque village.
The goal, according to the community’s website, is to boost Albinen’s declining population and “bring life back to the village.”
To qualify for the bounty, candidates must be younger than 45, Swiss citizens or permanent residents and be willing to buy or build a house that costs at least $200,000. They also must commit to living in Albinen at least a decade. If they leave earlier, they would have to refund the money.
The village council will set aside $100,000 a year to fund the project.
“We have to seize this chance with all the means at our disposal,” Mayor Beat Jost wrote on the website. He said offering a monetary incentive to newcomers “is an investment in our future,” since new arrivals will boost the local economy with taxes and spending.
The council hopes to entice 10 families in the next few years.
The proposal created a social media frenzy when it received international attention in November. Village authorities were swamped with nearly 3,000 inquiries from as far away as Asia and South America.
“How do I apply?” Murillo Lucarello from Brazil asked on Albinen’s Facebook page.
The village council responded by criticizing news media for not accurately reporting the conditions attached to the offer and for inciting “unnecessary excitement.”
Those lucky enough to be chosen will find that despite its minuscule size, Albinen boasts several restaurants and a grocery store. A famous resort town of Leukerbad is just over 4 miles away.
Other communities have also offered rewards to entice new residents, but Albinen is more generous. For instance, the Italian town of Candela is paying $2,350 to newcomers, and six families have already taken advantage of the offer.
In the United States, Baltimore; New Haven, Conn.; and some cities in Kansas, Nebraska and Alaska offer tax breaks and other financial perks to newcomers who buy houses there.