Australian town overwhelmed by response to free land offer

CANBERRA (AP) Quilpie, an Australian Outback community, hoped that its offer of residential land for free to anyone would attract five families to its remote community of 800. In less than two weeks, authorities received more than 250 inquiries from Australia and around the world.
The Quilpie Shire Council (Quill-Pea), came up with the innovative idea of overcoming a housing shortage that was a barrier to filling jobs in western Queensland's sheep and cattle ranching regions.

A grant of AU$12,500 ($9400) is available to those who purchase a block and build a home on it.

The council effectively gives away the land by selling fully-serviced blocks measuring 1,000 square meters (about quarter of an acre) for the same price as the grant.

Justin Hancock, the chief executive of the council, was the one who came up with the idea for the grant. Due to the housing shortage in Quilpie, the 30-year-old spent six month in a cottage in a retirement village when he arrived in Quilpie in January.

Quilpie recently required teachers, nurses, mechanics, butchers and trade apprentices. Bar tenders are also needed.

The council stated that inquiries came from all over the world, including India, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Britain. To qualify for the grant, home buyers must be Australian citizens or permanent residents.

Hancock stated Thursday that if we could attract five more families to the shire, it would be a huge success for us. It was overwhelming to see the interest.

Real estate prices have shot up across Australia during the pandemic because of record low interest rates, extended lockdowns at Sydney and Melbourne, and residents looking for larger homes in smaller cities.

The state capital Brisbane has attracted the most interest in Quilpie, which is coronavirus-free and is home to 2.4 million people. Brisbane is located on the Pacific Ocean, 1,000 km (600 miles) east.

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There is also interest from Melbourne, which according to local media reports has been held down for longer than any other place in the world -- Newcastle and Western Australia.

Young families as well as retirees are looking at Quilpie. They have different reasons.

Hancock stated, "People coming out of lockdown say I want wide open spaces. And we have plenty of those." The 68,000-square-kilometer shire is 26,000 miles.

Quilpie locals will also cash two grants, one by Tom Hennessy (23 years old) and Tessa McDougall (24) In August, the couple purchased a block.

Quilpie is my favorite place. It's a wonderful place. Everyones friendly, Hennessy said.

Hennessy was born Quilpie, and his fiancée came from Brisbane a year earlier. There, relatives struggle to purchase houses and make mortgage payments.

Hennessy stated that they are a bit jealous of us.