A study by ISTAT a few years ago drew attention to a relevant aspect of demographic dynamics in Italy, namely how a large part of the population lives in cities and how this process of migration towards large urban centres is unstoppable.
Today, about a third of the population lives in very large cities, 42% in medium-sized towns, and only about a quarter of the population in small towns with less than 5,000 inhabitants, which, by contrast, make up 72% of the surface area of our peninsula.
The phenomenon of the depopulation of small towns and villages has reached such levels that many small centres are ‘dying’ due to a lack of residents: following what was done in Spain in the past, many small Italian municipalities have therefore experimented with the ‘House for 1 euro’ formula as a solution to combat this demographic trend.
The cultural heritage of abandoned Italian villages and recovery measures
More than half of Italy’s land is made up of villages, natural parks and protected areas. As mentioned above, this environmental, archaeological and historical-cultural heritage today suffers from the negative demographic trend, with the population increasingly fleeing to the big cities: the Italian regions most affected are those of the Apennines, in particular Tuscany, Piedmont, Liguria, Calabria, Basilicata, Abruzzo, Molise, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sicily and Sardinia. The small municipalities in northern Italy and in particular in the Alps are holding out, thanks to their pass economy organised in mountain tourist attractions and skiing activities.
The Italian Apennine villages – which have always been undervalued – have in fact suffered from botched renovations, ‘modernity’ campaigns that often obscure entire archaeological sites, and the privatisation of public areas.
This is the context of the National Borghi Plan, which will focus on projects for the cultural, social and economic regeneration of some 250 Italian villages. Interventions will focus on infrastructures and services in the cultural, tourism, social and research fields, including new schools or academies of arts and crafts, diffuse hotels, new forms of non-seasonal and non-invasive tourism, research centres and university campuses, as well as assisted healthcare residences (RSAs).
The National Village Plan will benefit from around one billion euros from the PNRR, aimed at intervening in particular in villages with considerable tourism potential and potentially dynamic contexts, with the aim of reversing the migration trend and encouraging the return of young people in particular, which will give impetus to tourism and economic development capable of attracting other inhabitants.
The 1 euro houses initiative
Among other strategies aimed at reversing the trend of depopulation of Italian villages, the initiative of houses offered and/or sold at 1 euro, or at least at symbolic prices, has recently received a lot of media attention.
Often, in fact, many citizens find themselves the owners of real estate far from their places of residence and work, and for which they have no interest in ownership or use: in this context, real estate constitutes for them rather a fixed cost, sometimes even a considerable one, which they would gladly do without.
This is the background to the 1 euro houses initiatives, also promoted directly by municipalities, with the aim of repopulating these very small towns: The mechanism envisages that whoever buys at the reduced price must first of all bear all the costs for the transfer of ownership and, once he or she becomes the owner, undertake to renovate the house, with the appropriate guarantees, and to inhabit it within a maximum of two to three years, so as to get the area’s economy moving again, starting with construction, and prevent more and more towns from becoming inexorably empty in a few years.
How does buying houses for 1 euro work?
The owners of the properties, if they cannot proceed independently and/or through real estate agencies (which often refuse to market them), give the property to the municipality to sell for the symbolic price of 1 euro.
The municipal administration, which has an interest in the repopulation of the municipality, promotes the project and acts as guarantor of the regularity of the sale, which always takes place between private citizens. Of course there are commitments that the buyer must guarantee, such as:
- draw up a renovation project for the property within a period set by the municipality, usually one year from the date of purchase;
- Bear all notarial costs for registration, cadastral volutions, any regularisations and certifications and, if necessary, re-filing;
- Start renovation work within the deadline set by the municipality;
- Provide surety guarantees to ensure the completion and proper execution of the work by the buyer.
Obviously, this procedure is open not only to Italian citizens, but also to all foreign citizens who, due to agreements between their government and the Italian state, may purchase property in Italy.