Friday 20 April 2018

Stunning Italian village selling homes for just €1 - but potential buyers must hurry

Ollolai is offering houses for less than €1
Ollolai is offering houses for less than €1

Helen Coffey

A deadline has been introduced to a scheme in Sardinia that offers the chance to buy a house for €1.

The Italian village of Ollolai in the Barbagia region launched the initiative in 2015 to attract more residents after the local population had dwindled to 1,300, with few babies born each year.

The mayor, Efisio Arbau, aimed to rejuvenate the community via the innovative programme, which invites people to buy one of 200 stone houses for just €1 – although there are strings attached.

The houses themselves are in varying states of disrepair and in need of serious work, and only those with around €20,000 to €30,000 to make them inhabitable will be considered. The scheme stipulates that participants must commit to refurbish the property within three years of purchase, and can only sell it on after five years.

However, after being in the spotlight recently, the village has now been overwhelmed with interest, leading to a deadline of 7 February 2018 being set for applications. There’s only one week left to apply.

Since being featured by various media outlets over the last six months, by late 2017 the number of applications had increased to 120, with many coming from overseas. Interest has now reached such a pitch that the website, casea1euro.it, currently appears to be down.

Arbau issued a statement saying: “The Municipality of Ollolai announces that with effect from 2pm on 7 February 2018 it will no longer be possible to submit applications for participation in the ‘Case a 1 Euro’ scheme, as the number of requests submitted has potentially exhausted the number of available properties.”

He added that, after the cut-off, applications will be evaluated in the order they were received. If the scheme is reopened it will be announced on the village website.

Ollolai itself sits on the slopes of Monte San Basilio Magno, surrounded by Mediterranean woodland. It is one of the few remaining Sardinian towns where a local martial art and ancient form of wrestling, S’Istrumpa, is still practised, and it keeps up traditional artisan crafts such as the weaving of asphodel baskets.

The mayor has said his aim in launching the campaign was to rescue the village’s “unique traditions from falling into oblivion”, a goal that will hopefully be achieved now it has attracted so many potential new residents.

For those left disappointed, Ollolai is not the only Italian town to entice people with too-good-to-be-true sounding housing offers.

Candela, a small town in Puglia, announced in October 2017 it would pay up to €2,000 for new residents to move there in a bid to halt the area’s population decline.

Nicola Gatta, the town mayor, said he wanted to bring numbers back up to the 8,000 of the 1990s, when the town was known as “Little Naples”, after resident numbers had shrunk to 2,700.

Like the Ollolai offer, it came with a catch – those interested in the dolce vita needed to commit to being a permanent resident, rent a house in the town and earn more than €7,500 per year. If you meet the requirements, the council will pay €800 for singles and €1,200 for couples. Families of up to five receive over €2,000. Tax credits on council bills and childcare are also available. “Life quality rocks here,” said Stefano Bascianelli, who works with the mayor.

An idyllic village in the Italian mountains made the same offer in May last year, but quickly withdrew it after being overwhelmed by applicants.

Daniele Galliano, the mayor of Bormida, wrote a post on social media promising to give new residents €2,000 in cash, and guaranteeing cheap rent of around €50 a month once they’d moved there. People from all over the world, including the US, the UK, Indonesia and Hungary, expressed interest, even offering to waive the fee and live there anyway.

And as part of Italy’s Strategic Tourism Plan – an initiative designed to alleviate the overcrowding at Italy’s most popular spots, such as Venice, and redistribute tourists to lesser-known destinations around the country – it was announced in May 2017 that 103 historic sites were being given away for free.

These included castles, monasteries and towers all over the country; however, they were only up for grabs to those who could show concrete plans of how they would renovate and rejuvenate the sites to help boost tourism in the local area.

Independent News Service

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