smooth rock falls

Tiny town in Northern Ontario selling plots of land for 90% off to attract new residents

With more and more people leaving major cities like Toronto over our insanely high home prices, many small Canadian towns are seeing an uptick in new residents — something that local economic boards and municipal governments not only welcome, but are actively encouraging.

Smooth Rock Falls, Ontario — population 1,330 as of the most-recently processed Canadian census in 2016 — was ahead of its time in this regard with a successful campaign that attracted more than 60 new families to the area long before COVID was even a thing.

The small bilingual community in northern Ontario started offering up vacant residential lots for only $500 (90 per cent less than market value) back in 2017, prompting more than 1,000 queries within the span of a year.

Now, the Canadian Press is reporting that Smooth Rock Falls literally "helped revive its economy" with the stunt: Property values have since doubled in the town about one hour north of Timmins and 8.5 hours north of Toronto.

The average property listing right now is $137,000, according to Smooth Rock Falls' chief administrative officer Luc Denault. Back in 2017, before the incentive campaign was launched, homes were sitting at an average of $56,065.

This represents and increase of 144 per cent, but it's not only the real estate market benefitting from the highly-discounted lots, which were offered alongside financial loans, permit rebates and tax breaks for new home and business owners.

The revitalization project was launched to combat a decline in the Smooth Rock Falls population, which had been consistently falling since the closure of a major pulp and paper mill in 2006.

Only the forthcoming new census data can verify how much, exactly, the town's population has grown, but Denault cited at least 60 new families from places like the Greater Toronto Area, Southern Ontario and Newfoundland.

With these people have come new businesses, such as an IT firm, a restaurant and a diesel repair company.

"We've seen the changes, and what's a great feeling is we're continuing to see it ongoing," Denault told the Canadian Press noting that "there are still some of the ultra-cheap plots of land available from four years ago."

That's right — you can still score incredibly cheap lots in Smooth Rock Falls to build homes and businesses on, with a caveat: Buyers must purchase the land by tender, and then, if they build on it within two years, they get 90 per cent of the purchase price back.

Alternatively, you can buy land with a house already on it for about the tenth of what you'd pay for a house or condo in Toronto, which doesn't seem like a bad option if you like nature and can withstand Northern Ontario winters.

Lead photo by

Town of Smooth Rock Falls

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