Are Cities Really Paying People To Move There?

5 min read

Over the years, locations all over the country ranging from small Midwestern towns to urban cities have been welcoming an increasing number of new residents in droves.

While many of these locations boast beautiful environments, close-knit communities, and promising opportunity, there is more than meets the eye incentivizing individuals to begin packing up their moving trucks. Some of these destinations have one main thing in common – they are paying their new residents to move into their city.

This may initially sound like an irrational and costly concept, but more and more cities are finding success and revitalization following the introduction of these programs.

Curious to learn more? Here are some examples of intensive programs and why they may actually be a worthwhile opportunity to breathe new life into your city:

Attract Young, Driven Talent

With the Baby Boomer generation’s retirement dates quickly approaching in the very near future, many locations are exploring incentive programs in their cities to help offset their aging workforce and attract young, educated talent to their community. Afterall most businesses decide to relocate and open where there is a strong talent pool to hire from. By paying for that talent to come to your city you may be able to avoid a potential chicken or egg situation where talent isn’t coming because there are no jobs and jobs aren’t coming because there is no talent.

In Topeka, KA they have launched Choose Topeka, an initiative of the Greater Topeka Partnership is using cold hard cash to lure more workers to live in Kansas’ capital city. They will pay up to $10,000 to people who rent and $15,000 for those who purchase a primary home — after a year of residency in the city.

Branding A City As Modern

Some cities are introducing incentive projects as a strategy to help increase public awareness and provide supplementary PR over their innovation and strides to become a more modern location. This dynamic strategy works in two ways, attracting the talent that is directly correlated with the future of the workforce and placing these cities in the limelight as being forward thinkers – resulting in residual traffic and opportunity from individuals in other industries.

In 2018, Tulsa, Oklahoma introduced an unconventional incentive program, offering $10,000 to individuals who chose to move to their city and work from home for their current company or a remote business. The city also offers additional benefits to those who take advantage of the program, offering a free co-working space, monthly workshops, and networking opportunities with fellow members. While the idea may seem out-of-the-box, the purpose of this strategy is to help Tulsa establish itself as a modern and creative city, drawing in tech workers, digital nomads, and creative minds from across the country.

Spur Economic Growth

Incentive programs can bring more to cities than talent, it can also help attract inspired and entrepreneurial minds and spur economic growth. By offering incentives and loans, individuals have more financial freedom to pursue passion projects and entrepreneurial businesses, while a boom in housing and demand will help existing local businesses thrive and boost city revenue from property taxes.

Harmony, Minnesota proudly refers to themselves as the “biggest little town in Southern Minnesota”. While this northern town is home to one of top rated waterfalls in the United States, a thriving Main Street, and miles of scenic trails, they were looking for a way to retain their visitors and spur economic growth. As a result, Harmony introduced an incentive program offering cash rebates to people who chose to build a new home in their town, helping boost their local economy and attracting a new workforce to the town.

Revamp An Existing Community

For many cities, the passing of time can have an unpredictable effect on the local economy and community. While some cities flourish, others find themselves falling behind or facing hardship. When properly established, a great incentive program can help introduce new opportunities and hope for a more prosperous future in struggling cities.

Detroit is a city well known for its past glory and unfortunate downfall. However, using incentive programs, they have taken great strides to restore this city back to its previous glory. Challenge Detroit was founded in 2008 and is still thriving nearly 12 years later.

Each year, this program uses incentives to bring together 30 diverse, community-minded leaders and thought interrupters across the country. This program’s incentives involve much more than free housing – they also include a year of employment with local companies and nonprofits, career development courses, and free access to events across the city. Detroit’s incentive program helps to revamp and bring new life into existing businesses by placing power, influence, and vision into the hands of young go-getters who grasp what it takes to be a successful city. Using these ideas from this program, Detroit is working to reestablish itself as a powerhouse city in the United States.


While it may initially sound shocking to incentivize new residents to move to your city, properly established programs can truly help breathe new life into your destination and solve that chicken or egg stalemate. Some incentive programs focus on growth, innovation, and change, while others are simply put in place to help others discover the small things that make your city great. Regardless of the purpose, sometimes an eye catching investment may be exactly what you need to attract lifelong residents.


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