In a modern-day version of the Homestead Act, a small town in western Iowa’s Cass County is giving away building lots as an incentive to encourage folks to move there and build a home. The program started about three and a-half years ago in the town Marne, with a population of about 150, in an effort to replace dilapidated, teardown houses with brand new homes.

Marne Mayor Randy Baxter’s decision to give away four of his own lots generated over 75-hundred hits on the town’s website and 40 applications from those who expressed interest in moving there. The goal of the 20-year project, according to Baxter, is bring 50 or more families to town.

Less than a few months after the program began, other property owners and a local telephone company stepped forward to donate land and money to purchase additional lots. Since then, they’ve had one new house and a new business locate in the community because of the program, and they’d given away another lot, which the new owner planned to build on, as soon as their house in Omaha was sold.

Baxter says Marne has a low crime rate, and "It’s a nice place to raise kids." For more information, visit the town’s website at .