For over 100 years, Americans could earn free land from the U.S. government by living on it for five years. The original Homestead Act expired in 1976, but the government still sells land to the public.
The Homestead Act
Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act on May 20, 1862, to encourage the settlement of the Western U.S. The Act gave 160 acres of free land to settlers willing to settle and improve it for five years. According to the National Archives, Congress ended the Homestead Act in 1976, by which time Americans had received more than 270 million acres from the government.
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The U.S. government no longer offers free land to prospective homesteaders. However, the Bureau of Land Management remains the largest single landowner in the United States, and regularly sells land to the public by auction at its website (see Resources).
Other Homestead Options
Only American citizens who have at least 50 percent native Hawaiian ancestry can still receive nearly free land from the U.S. government. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands leases numerous residential, agricultural and pastoral lots in Hawaii for 99-year periods.