The mayor of a small New Brunswick village says the community has been inundated with calls and emails after it offered to sell plots of land for less than the price of a cup of coffee.
Ken Stannix said McAdam, N.B. — population 1,225 — has seen a small population boost in recent years, but he hopes that selling empty plots of land for $1 each will further bolster the numbers.
The town announced in November that it would offer the deal on 16 plots of land, and since then, more than 600 interested buyers have contacted them from across the country, and even from faraway places like India and Pakistan.
“We didn’t really anticipate that,” said Stannix. ”We thought there would be some interest in it and we would probably attract some, but we weren’t ready for the 600-plus people who called and sent emails.”
McAdam, about an hour’s drive southwest of Fredericton, has three major draws, he said: industry, tourism and retirement. It’s home to two manufacturing plants, a historic railway station that attracts thousands of visitors each year, a lakeside campground, local businesses and services for seniors.
The idea to sell the plots of land has been in the works for about two years. The town formed a community action group to address the village’s population, which had been in decline for decades following the collapse of their rail industry.
Since then, the village has sold 62 houses, heralding in a modest population bump and increased interest in McAdam.
“Suddenly, we had people coming to us and saying, ‘Is there any land available? We’d like to build, but we can’t find any lots,’” said Stannix.
He said the town approached the provincial government and offered to buy the 16 plots of land, which range in size from 665 to 1,086 square metres.
While each plot is valued between $5,000 and $7,500, Stannix said the village paid “substantially less” for the land, with the province’s understanding that they had a plan to increase the community’s population.
He said the pool of applicants has been narrowed down to 86 people — 11 of whom have already been selected as suitable buyers, mostly comprising of young retirees and families.
Stannix said the close-knit town is focused on choosing buyers who would like to build houses and spend their lives in the village instead of developers looking to build properties and sell them.
“We had people that called and said, ‘I want to take all 16 lots and I’ll build houses on them,’ and that really wasn’t what we were looking for,” he said.
“What we wanted to do is have people take a look at the village: know where they were buying the lots, where they were planning to move, because their success is our success.”
Because of the high demand, he said applications have closed.
This isn’t the first time a town has drastically reduced the cost of land to attract new residents. In 2017, the small town of Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., offered to reimburse 90 per cent of the cost of the land if people built on it within two years — reducing the land cost to as little as $500 in some cases.
As of November, 24 new families chose to buy pre-existing homes in the community after learning about the offer.
Stannix said the ultimate goal is to increase McAdam’s population by at least a thousand.
“Back in the heyday of McAdam, when it was a railroad town, and we had lots of people working with the railroad here, we probably had a population of about 2,700 to about 3,000,” he said. ”And many people here thought that that population size was the goal to shoot for.”
He said he’s reached out to companies to set up shop in the community to increase services for their new residents.
The land promotion is also attracting interest in the sale of pre-existing homes, said Stannix. As an example, he pointed to a conversation he had with a retirement-age man in Ontario who was initially interested buying a plot of land, but instead considered selling his million-dollar home, buying a house in the village, and retiring on what he could sell his house for.
“He said, ‘I think, if you don’t mind, I’ll just buy a house there,’ and I said, “oh my heavens, I don’t mind if you buy a house! We’re just happy to have you come down,’” said Stannix.
“The biggest thing is these people that come, they have energy and they have ideas. And that helps the community grow.”
Alex Cooke, The Canadian Press