How to Get Free Land in the US (and Canada)

by Tommy Grant

Free land is tough to come by, but it is possible. Almost all of it has strings attached, of course. Nothing is ever completely ‘free’ and the towns, agencies, and other organizations that make free land possible only do so with certain conditions. Land is a valuable resource, and most land in the country is privately owned and must be purchased.

There are still a few opportunities to take advantage of, so we’ll show you how to get free land in the US or Canada and share the locations and links below.

Contents (Jump to a Section)

Will the Homestead Act of 1862 Give me Land?

No, the Homestead Act of 1862 is no longer operational and valid. It was signed by Abraham Lincoln to speed up resettlement to the Western United States. It granted 160 acres of federal land for a small fee and allowed many slaves after the war to be landowners.

The Homestead Act of 1862 was repealed in 1976 (124 years later) and is no longer valid for new claims. Over 270 million acres of land were claimed (over 10% of federal land at the time). Since it is no longer active, states and local municipalities are the only entities promoting free land instead of the federal government.

What States Give Away Free Land?

States aren’t the ones doing the heavy lifting when it comes to giving away land- the local municipalities are. In each of these states listed, you’ll find a little town that is actually giving free land as a relocation incentive.

Free Land in Colorado (Flagler)

Flagler, Colorado is looking for businesses (not residential) for this location incentive. They are looking to boost the town’s economy by giving away 480 acres to qualifying applicants. You will need to fill out the free land application and pony up the $10/acre application fee. If you are looking for free residential or homestead land you’ll need to keep moving down the list.

Free Land in Iowa (Marne & Manilla)

Marne, Iowa is a tiny little town hoping to expand its population by giving away free land. They had less than 150 residents according to the 2020 census, so they’re hoping they can lure some new people to their little haven. You’ll need to build at least a 1200-square-foot house (no mobile homes) within 18 months of claiming the land, and of course, it’ll need to be your primary residence.

Manilla, Iowa is slightly bigger (under 850 residents), and you’ll again need to build a home. They have plenty of amenities and hookups, so it may be the perfect plug-and-play option if you are looking for a small-town vibe. The project is called Sunrise Addition Phase II, and they are taking applications to join their quiet town at no cost.

Free Land in Kansas (Lincoln, Mankato, Marquette, Osborne, & Plainville)

Out of all of the states, Kansas has the most towns offering free land. Plenty of small and medium-sized towns are lining up to offer you free land to get you to check out their little slices of paradise.

Lincoln, Kansas is a medium-sized town with over 3,500 residents and one of the larger locations on this list. You’ll have access to healthcare, schools, Interstate 70- and even broadband internet! If the other towns on this list look a little too small for your liking, or if you have persistent medical conditions, Lincoln may be just what you are looking for. The free Lincoln, KS plots are near the schools and a park, close to the center of town.

Mankato, Kansas is another small town (less than 1,000 residents) and is the county seat of a county with less than 3,000. They are currently giving away 26 lots in what they are calling the Johnson addition to applicants. Apply with their online free land application to build a home with at least 1200 square feet in two years to get approved.

Marquette, Kansas had less than 600 in the 2020 census. It is a quaint town, with a nice ‘downtown’, parks, trails, and even the Kansas Motorcycle museum. For such a small town they have a very active community.

Osborne, Kansas is a city with less than 1,500 residents. It offers plots of land as part of its Sunset Addition initiative. Osborne is quiet, yet large enough to even have its own golf course and municipal airport. You can find the free land application online as well as all of the contact information.

Plainville, Kansas has just over 2,000 residents and a sophisticated expansion plan. This includes free land with a comprehensive online application process. They further incentivize your move with tax breaks! With plenty of amenities in the area and utilities ready to run and hook up, they are looking to make relocating to Plainville easy.

Free Land in Minnesota (Claremont & Richland)

Claremont, Minnesota is a small town of just under 600 residents that will give you land if you qualify based on income level. The income threshold is $129K for families of 3+ so this can rule out some potential residents. There are lots still available, and they have a plat map to show which you can pick. Check out Claremont’s website for more information and a link to the application itself.

Richland, Minnesota is a city of just over 1,200 with a rich history. Right between Minneapolis and Des Moines, this small town is off the beaten path and offers free land to new residents. Their Homestake project is offering free plats and still has several available. If you qualify for financial assistance, they will even reduce assessment fees for even more savings. For more information, their website details their free land program.

Free Land in Nebraska (Curtis, Elwood)

Nebraska is one of the only states with an online resource that will help you find towns and cities offering free land in the state.

Curtis, Nebraska is a small town looking to grow. They are giving away free residential lots, as well as free commercial and industrial land. Their website is pretty impressive and has all of their free land details.

Elwood, Nebraska is a similar-sized town with convenient access to Interstate 80. It has its own reservoir and Johnson Lake nearby. They also happen to have just started giving away land! The lots are big and free, and they even contribute 10% of the construction cost of your home! This is one of the strongest deals on the list, just based on value.

It’s worth checking out their website for more information.

Free Land in New York (Buffalo)

Okay, we were surprised to see the second largest city in New York (Buffalo) giving out free land for homestead revitalization. Their Urban Homestead Program takes unused land and buildings and distributes them for free if you meet their application criteria. Buffalo, New York is by far the biggest city on this list, so if you are looking for free land in an urban area- this is it.

Free Land in Canada (Yukon)

The Yukon territory has an agricultural program that incentivizes moving there in exchange for some public land. Of course, it is cold in the Yukon. So keep that in mind before you sign up.

Getting Land for Cheap

If none of the free options look great for your situation, there are plenty of ways to get land for cheap as well.

The US government auctions off unwanted land and you can find some deals on there- most of them start well below market value.

You can also check out land leases, with the most popular being the Countryside Initiative. Many parks and programs exist across the US that will also lease land to preserve the space. We didn’t include those in our roundup because leasing the land isn’t owning the land. So while you may get to move there for free or for a small amount, you technically don’t get it for free as the lease will expire.

Another less-utilized option is squatting. Laws vary from state to state, but if you maintain residence for a very long period on a piece of land, you can claim the land as your own. It’s an antiquated rule, but a rule nonetheless. If you are out of all other options, it may be worth looking into laws in your state or you can contact a lawyer.

Lastly, getting gifted land is always an option. Private landowners often leave the land to their friends and family, and you could be one of them if you play your cards right.

The Final Word

It is important to note that obtaining free land through these methods will still require effort and resources on your part, such as developing or improving the land or participating in conservation efforts. Additionally, there may be restrictions on how the land can be used, and you may be required to pay property taxes and maintain the land.

If you haven’t started prepping yet, then what are you waiting for? Get started prepping now. If you don’t know why you should be prepping, we have you covered as well: Why You Should Prepare for Emergencies. Here are a few other good reads you may be interested in:

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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